AC Milan achieved arguably the most impressive result of the early season when they went to Stadio San Paolo and beat Napoli for the first time in 10 years.
It feels like we write it every week, but it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s show once again when his brace on either side of half put the Rossoneri in front, despite limping with something later in the game looked like a thigh problem.
Dries Mertens pulled one back for Napoli to keep the last half hour tense, but Milan’s chances were improved by the fact that Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off against his previous side for collecting two yellow cards.
The Diavolo would score a fantastic 3-1 win with a late goal from Jens Petter Hauge, the first at San Paolo since the 2010/11 Scudetto season – another game Ibrahimovic was involved in – and enough to return via Sassuolo and lead the league.
The big pre-game story was that head coach Stefano Pioli and his assistant Giacomo Murelli had to stay at home because of a contract with coronavirus. Daniele Bonera was the deputy head coach.
He did not cause any surprises with the starting XI when Ante Rebic arrived on the left instead of the injured Rafael Leao in an otherwise first-class line-up.
Bonera had a moment of panic early on when Simon Kjaer drove up with an apparently overstretched groin after an interception. He spent about a minute off the pitch before coming back, much to the relief of his teammates.
Milan had their first chance of the game within eight minutes when Ibrahimovic fell deep to take over the game and Rebic shot a ball behind the defense that shot straight at Meret on the volley.
The Rossoneri continued to threaten and this time Meret had to save better when a decent move from Milan ended and Calhanoglu fired a shot from 25 meters that the Italian international parried.
From the resulting corner, the ball hit the path of Kjaer, who should have hit but hit his reflex over the bar as he fell backwards.
Milan kept researching and Saelemaekers should have done a lot better than going inside after an incredible cross-field pass from Kessie.
The away team had the goal that their early start will likely be in the 21st. Minute, and it was Ibrahimovic again. Theo Hernandez found space on the left flank to cross and whipped with a centimeter-accurate cross at the Swede, who ended with an absolutely sublime header from about 15 meters away.
Napoli would have approached equalizer a few minutes later with a number of chances. First, Donnarumma saved fantastically on his left to deny a shot from Mertens designed to sneak into the post and from the corner that led Bakayoko to try, Di Lorenzo hit the from seven yards Latte, then Lozano had a shot with his fingertips.
Politano found room to shoot from the edge of the box twice as the Partenopei were looking for an equalizer, but the first time he shot wide and his second attempt rolled past the far post.
Milan would have had a great chance of making the 2-0 when Kessie Fabian Ruiz stole the ball and easily got Ibrahimovic in goal, but the referee – who made some questionable calls in the first half – judged it a foul.
With Calabria booked for two minutes in the second half, Bakayoko was asked to give his second yellow for an arm that appeared to be facing Theo Hernandez as he struck the ball behind his compatriot. but the referee decided to release him.
Ten minutes after the restart, Milan scored their second goal and it was that man Ibrahimovic again. The counterattack was perfectly executed when Calhanoglu released Rebic into space on the left and spun to buy time for Zlatan’s far post run, which eventually ended on his knee after a precise flank.
The Rossoneri briefly thought they had made it 3-0 when Ibrahimovic raced through the gate and passed Meret, but the offside flag rightly went up when the ball hit the back of the net.
Moments later, the lead was cut in half. Kessie lost the ball near the edge of the Milan box – on suspicion it might have been a foul by Bakayoko – and the ball eventually found Mertens, who cocked and shot from close range under Donnarumma to make the score 2-1.
Remarkably, Bakayoko then saw red against his previous side. Theo Hernandez made a typical fast run from his own half and came back half a meter in front of the Chelsea borrower, who brought him down and immediately showed a second yellow.
Milan then began to push for a third killer goal, and Kjaer might have done better from a corner situation when he was about to deliver and could only head straight for Meret.
Napoli tossed Andrea Petagna and the former Milan Primavera player had scored a goal not long after his introduction, although Donnarumma saved well even when the offside flag was high.
Bonera made a double change when Rebic and Saelemaekers made way for Jens Petter Hauge and Samu Castillejo.
There was a moment of concern, however, when Ibrahimovic collapsed in a heap with 12 minutes to go while holding his left achilles tendon and he was forced to keep going, being replaced by Lorenzo Colombo.
The last change signed Rade Krunic to bolster midfield, with Calhanoglu making way. Seconds later, Fabian Ruiz pulled a slowly rolling shot just past the Donnarumma post.
Milan ended the game in stoppage time and it was a memorable moment for Hauge, who shot past Manolas into the box before shooting over the crossbar and a touch from Meret to score his first Serie A goal for the Club to achieve.
A. . C.. . Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimović, p. . S.. . C.. . Napoli, Serie A
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