Ibrahimovic Strikes Back Twice as Milan Ease Past Cagliari

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back, and is back with style. The Milan giant bagged a brace in Serie A’s Monday night game to help the Rossoneri stroll past Cagliari and keep Inter at a distance in the league table.

Milan will need just one point next Saturday against Atalanta to become Campione d’Inverno (“Winter Chiampion”) as they seek to reach the campionato turning point from the top of the table.

The game at the Sardegna Arena in Cagliari was another day in the office for Stefano Pioli and his boys, who benefited of yet another penalty – the 12th this season for the Diavoli – to secure an early lead and doubled their tally early in the second half – both goals courtesy of their talismanic striker from Sweden.

Only later in the game did the Rossoneri suffer a bit as Alexis Saelemaekers managed to collect two yellow cards in the space of eight minutes and was thus sent to take an early shower by referee Rosario Abisso. But Milan managed to contain the Isolani‘s final offense pretty comfortably, also thanks to Gianluigi Donnarumma’s saves.

Still, Saelemaekers’s absence might be felt when the Rossoneri take on Atalanta – and so will Romagnoli’s, as the captain collected his second yellow in a row and will be banned from playing against the Bergamaschi.

For Cagliari, the situation is getting worse and worse. The Sardinians extended their losing streak to five games and are now just one point clear of the drop zone. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco will need to give everything he has to keep his job and will need much help from his new joiners – Radja Nainggolan and Alfred Duncan above all – to steer the Islanders back on track.

Sure, the fact that they conceded a penalty just seven minutes into the game didn’t help. But the referee’s decision seemed the right one, as Charalampos Lykogiannis clearly pushed down Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box. Zlatan retook his role of penalty taker from Franck Kessié and made no mistake this time.

Cagliari did try to react but all their offenses crashed against Milan’s organized defense and Gianluigi Donnarumma had nothing to do for the full first half.

For the Rossoneri, the only bad news were the booking of Romagnoli and Simon’s Kjaer back injury – the Dane was replaced by Pierre Kalulu after the break.

Milan sealed their victory seven minutes into the second half, when Davide Calabria found Zlatan in the box with a magnificent 50-meter cross. Ibrahimovic controlled the ball and beat Alessio Cragno with a clinical shot.

Calabria is continuing to live his magic moment: Before serving an assist for Zlatan’s winner, Milan’s right-back had already tried to steal the spotlight with a right-foot drive shot that was denied by Cagliari’s goal post.

Cagliari were two goals down but still up for a fight. Around the one-hour mark, Giovanni Simeone received the ball in the box and went one-on-one with Donnarumma, forcing the goalie to go above and beyond to stop the Argentine’s shot with his body.

On the other side of the pitch, Ibra went close to wrap his first hat trick since he came back to Milan, but this time Alessio Cragno’s answer was spectacular and kept the Milan striker at bay.

The Rossoneri were ready to switch to cruise control mode, if not for Alexis Saelemaekers seeing red and forcing his teammates to play with one man less for the last 15 minutes. The Belgian winger set foot on the pitch on 66 minutes and was booked twice in just eight minutes.

Eusebio Di Francesco thus went all in as he sent in strikers Leonardo Pavoletti and Alberto Cerri – the latter did manage to test Donnarumma with a tricky header but the Rossoneri goalie pushed the ball above the crossbar to keep his sheet clean and help Milan take another big step towards the Winter title.



January 18, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 18

SCORERS: 7′ Ibrahimovic pen., 52′ Ibrahimovic

CAGLIARI (4-3-2-1): Cragno; Zappa (79′ Pavoletti), Godín, Ceppitelli, Lykogiannis; Pereiro (57′ Sottil), Marin, Duncan (69′ Oliva); Nainggolan, João Pedro; Simeone (79′ Cerri) (Aresti, Vicario, Boccia, Walukiewicz, Tripaldelli, Caligara, Tramoni, Delpupo) Coach: Di Francesco
MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer (46′ Kalulu), Romagnoli, Diogo Dalot; Tonali (71′ Meité), Kessié; Castillejo, Brahim Diaz (83′ Conti), Hauge (66′ Saelemaekers); Ibrahimovic (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Musacchio, Di Gesù, Michelis, D. Maldini, Colombo, Roback) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Abisso from Palermo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Godin, Ceppitelli (C), Romagnoli (M); Red Card: Saelemaekers (M) Rincon, Segre (T); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 4′