In a tough away match, a depleted ten-man AC Milan side emerged victorious again. And they achieved this thanks to an excellent brace from their Swedish star, back in the starting line-up in Serie A following his recovery. Indeed, Zlatan Ibrahimović inspired the Rossoneri to a 2-0 victory over Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena, a result which sees AC Milan move three points ahead at the top. A goal in each half made it an excellent night for Coach Pioli’s men following a hard-fought encounter. The Rossoneri’s performance was full of desire, and they did well to strike with their quality and dig in as a team to keep another clean sheet, especially after Saelemaekers’s sending-off in the 74th minute. A promising debut from Meïte was another positive to take. With matchday 18 in Serie A over, the Diavolo sit in first place on 43 points. AC Milan will return to league action at 18:00 CET on Saturday 23 January, when they’ll face Atalanta at San Siro.
CHECK OUT THE GALLERY FROM CAGLIARI V AC MILAN
AC Milan made a bright start and scored in the sixth minute from the penalty spot: after Ibrahimović had been barged over by Lykogiannïs in the box, the Swede stepped up to give the Rossoneri the lead. The early setback didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of Cagliari, who looked lively but weren’t particularly incisive. In the 25th minute, a long-range effort from Calabria was pushed behind by Cragno. After 33 minutes, Pereiro’s shot was blocked by Tonali, while Ceppitelli headed over from a corner two minutes later as the Rossoblù aimed to draw level. With 36 minutes on the clock, Calabria threatened again, almost doubling the Diavolo’s advantage: the Italian’s left-footed attempt from just inside the area bounced off the inside of the post and rolled back out. It was an open game, with the Rossoneri heading into the break in front.
As was the case in the opening period, the second half started with an early Ibrahimović goal: after running onto Calabria’s ball over the top, Zlatan thumped the ball into the far bottom corner to score his and AC Milan’s second in the 52nd minute. Initially ruled out for offside, the goal was allowed to stand after a VAR check. The match wasn’t short on chances: after Cragno had denied Kessie in the 57th minute, Donnarumma made himself big to keep out Simeone’s attempt following João Pedro’s through ball six minutes later. In a similar move at the other end, Hauge released Ibra, but Cragno prevented a hat-trick. After 74 minutes, Saelemaekers was shown a second yellow card, meaning the Rossoneri would have to play out the remainder of the match with ten men. Cagliari weren’t giving up, with Donnarumma making a fingertip stop from Cerri’s header with nine minutes to go. In the 85th minute, another header, this time from Ceppitelli, flashed across Donnarumma’s goal and went inches wide with the goalkeeper stranded. Zlatan had the last chance of the match but was unable to convert. It didn’t matter, however, as the Rossoneri saw the game out to pick up another three points.
CAGLIARI 0-2 AC MILAN
CAGLIARI (4-3-2-1): Cragno; Zappa (80' Cerri), Ceppitelli, Godín, Lykogiannïs; Marin, Nainggolan, Duncan (69' Oliva); Pereiro (57' Sottil), João Pedro; Simeone (80' Pavoletti). Subs: Aresti, Vicario; Boccia, Tripaldelli, Walukiewicz; Caligara, Delpupo; Tramoni. Coach: Di Francesco.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjær (46' Kalulu), Romagnoli, Dalot; Kessie, Tonali (72' Meïte); Castillejo, Díaz (83' Conti), Hauge (66' Saelemaekers); Ibrahimović. Subs: A. Donnarumma, Tătărușanu; Musacchio; Di Gesù, Michelis; Colombo, Maldini, Roback. Coach: Pioli.
Referee: Abisso from Palermo.
Goals: 6' pen. and 52' Ibrahimović (M).
Booked: 39' Romagnoli (M), 83' Godín (C), 88' Ceppitelli (M).
Sent Off: 74' Saelemaekers (M).
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