Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late acrobatic strike to earn a sluggish AC Milan a 1-1 draw against Udinese in Serie A on Saturday.
Milan came into the contest looking to get back to winning ways after being knocked out of the Champions League earlier this week. But instead, they almost fell to two defeats in a row at Udinese. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had other plans; the Swede came up with a superb acrobatic strike to grab a last-gasp equaliser, saving the blushes for the Rossoneri.
Stefano Pioli’s side got off to a good start, with Ibrahimovic failing to find the target from a good position behind the Udinese defence, sending a half volley well over the bar. From the get-go, it became very clear that the hosts were prepared to play tight and compact, willing to cede possession to Milan and try and hit them on the counter or pounce upon a sloppy mistake at the back.
The plan worked as Udinese gradually grew into the game with in-form striker Beto breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute. Mike Maignan made a vital intervention to save the Brazilian’s first effort, but the ball bounced kindly into Beto’s path for a second attempt, which he smashed home from close-range.
Milan trailed Udinese 1-0 heading into stoppage time.
Zlatan scored this 92nd minute equalizer ✂️
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 11, 2021
After the break, Milan dominated the proceedings but carved out very few clear-cut openings in the final third, with poor decision-making from Milan’s forwards hardly testing the home side’s defence. Udinese put a lot of players behind the ball to preserve their advantage, and just when it looked like Milan were set to depart empty-handed, Ibrahimovic popped up in the right position at the right time to acrobatically finish from close range and salvage a point.
Udinese finished the game with ten men when substitute Isaac Success was sent off for colliding with Maignan moments before the final whistle. The result lifted Milan two points clear at the top of the Serie A table, with a red-hot Inter Milan facing Cagliari on Sunday. The Hard Tackle will now run the rule over Pioli’s men after another underwhelming showing on the weekend.
Mike Maignan: 6/10
He made a fantastic stop with Beto clear on goal but could not keep the rebound out in the end. Maignan did not have much else to do after that, but he was quite consistent with his distribution throughout the game.
Alessandro Florenzi: 6/10
Florenzi started the game ahead of Pierre Kalulu; he was one of Milan’s better players on the day, constantly driving forward with the ball. Perhaps he played a few too many long balls over the top, but he did generate two key passes with his attempts.
Fikayo Tomori: 6.5/10
This defence looked a little disjointed without Simon Kjaer’s commanding presence, as the physical presence of Beto made things difficult for Milan’s backline. It did not help that Deulofeu was equally impressive on the day. The Englishman battled at times to keep the Udinese attackers at bay. His defensive output was great again, though, with 5 tackles, 1 interception, and 5 clearances, but he also lost the ball cheaply on several occasions.
Alessio Romagnoli: 5.5/10
The same can be said for skipper Romagnoli, who won his fair share of aerial duels. He made a vital defensive intervention while also thwarting a potential counter-attack. The fact that Udinese were allowed to attack freely and given an easy pass from midfield made things tough for Milan’s defenders. The Italian ultimately was not able to keep Milan’s defence organised.
Theo Hernandez: 5.5/10
The Frenchman delivered another clumsy and dreadful defensive performance while he was mediocre at best in attacking areas. Making his 100th appearance for Milan, it did not come off for him on the day, as there were a few errors at the back and he missed a few decent chances while displaying poor end-product.
Overall, he failed to impact the match positively. Hernandez very nearly made the wrong call four minutes from time when he pushed the trigger after a stray ball was seized by Milan in Udinese’s half, with the left-back shanking his shot wide instead of sending in a cut-back.
Tiemoue Bakayoko: 5/10
Although Bennacer might be guilty of playing a dangerous pass, Bakayoko was also culpable for the first goal; he should have done a lot better at shielding and handling the ball. Also, he was too slow to respond. He did next to nothing in the midfield as Udinese easily passed through their Milan counterparts to create effective turnovers. He was subbed off at half-time, which speaks volumes of how bad his display was.
Ismael Bennacer: 5/10
He was partly responsible for Udinese’s first goal by sending the ball into a risk area, and he should not have put Bakayoko in a dangerous position. The Algerian international got better as the game went on, but it was certainly a night to forget for the Algerian.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 5/10
Saelemaekers did not produce a great display on the right in what was a disappointing showing after coming into the first XI to replace Junior Messias. He had several nice touches but was fairly anonymous throughout and did not build anything. With Messias putting up much better performances on the right, the pressure is on Saelemaekers to improve his overall contribution in the attack.
Brahim Diaz: 5/10
Just before half-time, Ibrahimovic set up Brahim Diaz for a fantastic opportunity, which the Real Madrid loanee failed to convert. Diaz managed to get himself into promising areas of the pitch but spurned the opportunities that came his way, with his teammates stunned when he fired in space on the edge of the box in the 59th minute.
Rade Krunic: 4/10
Like Saelemaekers, Krunic played some nice passes but had very little influence on the game. He was also hooked off after the first 45 minutes after putting another dismal showing on the left.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 7/10
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is now the THIRD player to score 300 goals since 1/1/2000 in the Top 5 European leagues, behind only CR7 (483) and Messi (475).
The eternal giant.
📊 stat via Opta pic.twitter.com/w6DMdZacjw
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) December 11, 2021
Ibrahimoavic turned saviour for Milan with his late acrobatic strike. It was a fantastic finish that rescued a Milan attack that really did not deserve anything from the game and looked poor on transitions.
Prior to the goal, he did not make much of an effect, except a header from a difficult position that nearly slipped in behind goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, while he also fired a half volley comfortably over the bar early on in the game. At 40, he continues to defy the odds and is still capable of delivering in the big moments.
Junior Messias: 6/10
Dropped following the lacklustre performance against Liverpool, the Brazilian put forth a good performance after coming off the bench. He beat his marker several times and almost got on the scoresheet, putting himself in some good positions to bag a goal, although ultimately, it did not come off for him. Perhaps he should reclaim his starting berth for the next game.
Sandro Tonali: 6/10
Tonali was vital in the second half, as his creative strengths proved useful against Udinese as they dropped deep to preserve the lead. He did a good job and created a match-high four key passes.
Franck Kessie: 6/10
Like Tonali, Kessie performed admirably in the centre of the park, and it is difficult to suggest that he could have done more. It was a substantial improvement over the first half, and Kessie offered balance alongside Tonali.
Samu Castillejo: 5.5/10
Castillejo played for more than 20 minutes, saw a lot of the ball, and made a key pass but had minimal impact overall.
Daniel Maldini: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.