Veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, starting his first match since the coronavirus stoppage, converted a penalty to help AC Milan to an emphatic 3-0 win at Lazio on Saturday, severely denting the Serie A title hopes of their ragged opponents.
Lazio, missing Serie A leading scorer Ciro Immobile through suspension, dropped seven points behind leaders Juventus with eight games to play after slumping to their first home defeat in the league this season.
The hosts were a far cry from the fluent and confident side which enjoyed a 21-match unbeaten league run from September till their season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored from the penalty spot as AC Milan beat second-placed Lazio 3-0
Hakan Calhanoglu gave AC Milan the lead in the 23rd minute against the Serie A title hopefuls
Frustrations boiled over following the end of the game as players got into an argument
Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha looks dejected after Ibrahimovic’s well-struck penalty
The effort of having to come behind to win their last two games 2-1 seemed to take its toll and the confidence drained out of them after Milan went ahead.
Milan, unbeaten since the season re-start, climbed to sixth.
Lazio’s other main striker, Felipe Caicedo, was also suspended although midfielder Lucas Leiva returned for the first time since a knee operation in April.
The hosts could have gone in front early on when Jony fired a low ball across the face of the goal but two Lazio players failed to make contact.
Instead, Milan scored from their first real attack in the 23rd minute as Hakan Calhanoglu’s shot took a wicked deflection off Patric and looped over stranded Thomas Strakosha.
Ante Rebic scored AC Milan’s third on the hour mark as the visitors ran riot in Lazio
Lazio were left defensively wide open allowing Rebic to end any hope of a Lazio comeback
Ibrahimovic had a goal chalked off for offside but there was no reprieve two minutes later when Lazio defender Stefan Radu conceded a penalty for handball.
The 38-year-old Swede stepped up and, although Strakosha got a hand to it, the ball rebounded off his foot and into the net.
Lazio were wide open at the back and left Ante Rebic completely free to slot the ball past Strakosha in the 59th minute.
Theo Hernandez twice missed a chance for Milan’s fourth, the first after a solo run from near his own area.
Ibrahimovic played a huge part in his first game back since the coronavirus stoppage
Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi was left frustrated as they are now seven points off Juventus
AC Milan celebrate after one of their best performances of the season away against Lazio
The result was Lazio’s first home defeat of the season and damaging to their title pursuit
Lazio XI: Strakosha, Patric, Acerbi, Radu (Vavro 55′), Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic (Djavan Anderson 67′), Leiva (Adekanye 46′), Parolo, Jony (Lukaku 55′), Luis Alberto; Correa (Cataldi 64′).
Unused Subs: Guerrieri, Proto, Armini, Bastos, Andre Anderson, J. Silva, Falbo.
AC Milan XI: Donnarumma, Conti (Calabria 71′), Kjaer, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez, Kessie (Biglia 86′), Bennacer, Saelemaekers, Bonaventura (Krunic 71′), Calhanoglu (Paqueta 38′), Ibrahimovic (Rebic 46′).
Unused Subs: A Donnarumma, Begovic, Leao, Gabbia, Laxalt, Brescianini, Maldini.
Goals: Calhanoglu 23′, Ibrahimovic 34′, Rebic 59′.