Late goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Ismaël Bennacer spared AC Milan major embarrassment as it scraped a 4-2 win in Serie A at Bologna, which played for more than half an hour with nine men on Saturday.
Despite the numerical advantage, it appeared as if Milan was going to be held to a draw before Bennacer scored six minutes from time and Ibrahimović made sure of the win right at the death.
“It's the kind of shot that you can try 10 times and it will only go in once,” Bennacer said. “I hit it well and I scored and it’s a goal that matters, so I am happy.”
The match had seemed all but over at halftime with Milan 2-0 up and Bologna down to 10 men after defender Adama Soumaoro was sent off in the 20th minute. But Bologna was level seven minutes into the second half following an own-goal from Ibrahimović and a fine strike from Musa Barrow.
However, Bologna received another straight red card as Roberto Soriano was sent off in the 58th.
“I don't want to talk about referees any more,” Bologna coach Siniša Mihajlović said. "With 11 men we were better than Milan.
“The guys should be proud of what they did. Today we lost points but we won in our gameplay, in our spirit and in our courage.”
Milan moved top of Serie A, a point ahead of Napoli, which travels to Roma on Sunday looking to preserve its perfect start to the league season.
“We struggled because we thought the game was over,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “If you stop playing then you risk it all. Luckily we had the right quality to get it back.”
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Milan had several players out through injury and coronavirus. But it took the lead in the 15th when Rafael Leão sprinted onto Ibrahimović's through ball and his angled drive was deflected past Łukasz Skorupski.
Matters got worse for Bologna five minutes later as Soumaoro was sent off for tripping Rade Krunić as the Milan midfielder was clear on goal.
Milan doubled its lead in the 35th when Skorupski flapped at a corner and it was only half cleared to the edge of the area where Davide Calabria smashed the ball powerfully into the back of the net.
Ibrahimović gifted Bologna a way back into the game four minutes after the break as he headed in a corner for an own-goal and the comeback was complete three minutes later when Barrow beat the offside trap to fire in the equalizer.
Soriano had provided the assist but he swiftly went from hero to villain as he caught Milan defender Fodé Ballo-Touré, receiving Bologna’s second red card of the match.
However, Milan struggled to break the nine men of Bologna down and incredibly the home side almost took the lead but Ciprian Tătărușanu did well to parry Marko Arnautović’s effort.
Moments earlier Skorupski had pulled off a fantastic save to palm Olivier Giroud’s header off the line.
Milan restored its lead when Bologna again only cleared to the edge of the area and Bennacer volleyed into the bottom left. And Ibrahimović sealed the result with his first goal since turning 40 earlier this month.
Stefano Colantuono had a nightmare start as Salernitana coach with his side losing 4-2 at home to Empoli.
Colantuono replaced Fabrizio Castori last week after just one win in eight rounds but his new team was 3-0 down inside 15 minutes after goals from Andrea Pinamonti, Patrick Cutrone and an own-goal from Salernitana defender Stefan Strandberg.
Strandberg’s match got even worse on the stroke of halftime as the Norwegian fouled Pinamonti, who converted the resulting penalty with a cheeky chip.
The home side managed to improve after the break and got two goals back early on through Luca Ranieri and an own-goal from Empoli defender Ardian Ismajli.
Salernitana remained bottom, three points from safety. Venezia is only two points off the relegation zone after losing 3-1 at Sassuolo, which moved three points above its opponent.
Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio was forced off at halftime with a knee injury. The American teenager could miss the United States' World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica next month.
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