Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his remarkable scoring streak with an acrobatic late strike to secure Milan a 2-1 win over Udinese, stretching the Rossoneri's unbeaten run in all competitions to 24 games.
Stefano Pioli's men appeared to be heading for an underwhelming draw with a side that had lost all but one of their first five Serie A games this term, but Ibrahimovic was decisive in the latter stages as he became the first Milan player to score in six successive league appearances since he accomplished the feat in 2012.
The 39-year-old Swede – who scored braces in each of his previous three league outings – had already made a telling contribution in setting up Franck Kessie's empathic opener.
Hosts Udinese levelled through a Rodrigo de Paul penalty just two minutes into the second half, but Milan pressed for a late winner and it duly arrived via Ibrahimovic, whose close-range bicycle kick opened up a four-point cushion at the Serie A summit for at least a couple of hours.
3 - Only three times a #ACMilan’s player has scored in six Serie A matches in a row in the three points for a win era, since 1994/95:
- Andriy Shevchenko (in 2001)
- Zlatan #Ibrahimovic (current streak and also in 2012).
Supremacy.#UdineseMilan #SerieA pic.twitter.com/SPr3eaFqTp
Milan established control early and were in front by the 18th minute as Ibrahimovic brought Ismael Bennacer's pass down on his chest in the box, held off Jens Stryger Larsen and teed up Kessie on the edge of the area.
But they were somewhat fortunate to not have their lead wiped out a few minutes later – former Milan player Gerard Deulofeu slicing high and wide after being fed into the box on the break.
Udinese then felt aggrieved not to get a penalty just before the interval, with Stefano Okaka sent tumbling by Ibrahimovic right in front of goal.
Milan were not so fortunate at the start of the second half, however, as Alessio Romagnoli was judged to have fouled Ignacio Pussetto in the area – despite replays showing he got a touch on the ball – and De Paul smashed the resulting penalty past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
For much of the second period that goal looked enough to earn Udinese a share of the spoils.
But Milan took the win seven minutes from time when Ante Rebic's cross was cleared into the air by Sebastien De Maio and Ibrahimovic produced an eye-catching finish to beat Juan Musso from a few yards out.
AC Milan (@acmilan) November 1, 2020
What does it mean? Milan spirit shines through
Failing to beat an Udinese team going through such a difficult spell would not have been a great look for Milan, particularly given the disappointment surrounding their 3-3 draw with Roma last time out, when they were pegged back three times.
They lacked a creator in chief, with no Milan player laying on more than one chance, but to their credit they kept plugging away, Ibrahimovic's winner arguably highlighting an improved attitude from last weekend as they got the job done this time.
Say what you want about his devotion to referring to himself as some kind of deity, there is no doubt Ibrahimovic walks the walk.
At 39, he achieved a goalscoring feat only managed twice before as he netted for a sixth Serie A game in succession, while he was also integral for the opener.
You cannot ask for much more than that.
Leao on a different wavelength
Portuguese youngster Rafael Leao has shown signs of improvement early this season, but he endured a difficult time of it in Udine.
While he only played one key pass, there were several instances where he found himself in a good position but picked the wrong ball or unloaded poorly.
Key Opta Facts
- Only in 1995-96 (under Fabio Capello) and in 2003-04 (under Carlo Ancelotti) had Milan had previously won five of their first six matches in a Serie A campaign in the era of three points for a win.
- Milan have scored in each of their last 26 league matches (61 goals in that period). Only two times in their Serie A history have they had a longer streak: 27 in 1949 and 29 in 1973.
- Since his return to Milan in January 2020, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been involved in 23 goals in 22 Serie A matches (17 goals and 6 assists).
- Since the restart of Serie A in June, Ibrahimovic has been involved in 19 goals (14 goals and 5 assists), a record in the period.
Milan return to Europa League action on Thursday as they host Lille, before welcoming Hellas Verona to San Siro three days later in their final game before the international break. Udinese go to Sassuolo on Friday.