Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice but was unable to rescue Milan as their unbeaten start in Serie A ended with a thrilling 4-3 loss at Fiorentina on Saturday.
The Rossoneri had made their best start to a top-flight season in the three-points-per win era after 12 matches and had a chance to move clear at the top of the table, but their 17-game unbeaten run in the league stretching back into last season was halted.
Joseph Alfred Duncan profited from a calamitous mix-up between Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia to fire the hosts ahead at Stadio Artemio Franchi, before former Milan player Riccardo Saponara curled in a sensational second shortly before half-time.
Dusan Vlahovic extended Fiorentina’s advantage, and while Ibrahimovic struck twice in five minutes to set up a tense finish, the Serbia international notched his 14th league goal of the season to render Lorenzo Venuti’s late own goal nothing more than a consolation.
Milan found themselves behind with 15 minutes played in rather comical circumstances as Tatarusanu spilled a corner and Gabbia attempted to shield the ball for his goalkeeper, but Alfred Duncan got to it first and prodded in from close range.
Pietro Terracciano frustrated Milan with a couple of impressive stops and Ibrahimovic diverted wide from inside the six-yard box – a miss that would prove costly as Saponara bent a delightful 25-yard shot away from Tatarusanu into the top-right corner.
Vlahovic added a third against the run of play after an hour with a composed finish from a tight angle once played in by Alfred Duncan, but Milan were soon back in the game through Ibrahimovic’s double.
The striker profited from a loose Giacomo Bonaventura pass to thump past Terracciano and then turned home Theo Hernandez’s cut-back to leave Fiorentina sweating.
Venuti put into his own net deep into added time after Ibrahimovic’s header hit the woodwork and ricocheted in off his body, but that only came after Vlahovic had settled any nerves with his second goal in the 85th minute.
What does it mean? Unlucky 13 for Rossoneri
Milan boss Stefano Pioli would have seen this as a great chance to put three points between his side and Napoli, who travel to Inter in their game in hand on Sunday, but they could not take advantage.
The Rossoneri were unbeaten in five league trips to Fiorentina before this contest since 2015, but they found themselves three down by the hour and were simply left with too much to do, even if ageless striker Ibrahimovic had other ideas.
One point from two difficult matches, having been held by rivals Inter before the international break, can be considered a blip rather than any sort of collapse for Milan. But Pioli will now know the importance of hitting back against Sassuolo next week.
Zlatan keeps on going
With his side seemingly in damage limitation mode, Ibrahimovic popped up with two goals as he became the oldest player – and the first over 40 – to score two or more goals in a single game in Europe’s top five leagues this century.
The Sweden international, who almost added a third late on with a header that went in off Venuti, ended the contest with seven shots in total – at least three more than he has managed in any other league game this term.
40y, 48d – At 40 years and 48 days, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become the third-oldest player ever to have scored a Serie A goal, overtaking Pietro Vierchowod by one day (40 years and 47 days) – ahead there are only Costacurta and Piola. Climbing.#FiorentinaMilan #SerieA
— OptaPaolo(@OptaPaolo) November 20, 2021
Dusan at the double
Vlahovic is at the opposite end of his career to Ibrahimovic and is on course to himself potentially becoming a goalscoring great, with his double on Saturday taking him to 27 Serie A goals in 2021.
That saw Vlahovic equal Kurt Hamrin (27 in 1960) for the most goals in a calendar year for Fiorentina, who have a real task on their hands keeping hold of the in-demand forward.
Key Opta Stats: History for Ibra
– Ibrahimovic (40 years, 48 days) is the oldest player ever to score two or more goals in a Serie A game – overtaking Francesco Totti (39 years, 206 days).
– Only Robert Lewandowski (38) has scored more goals than Vlahovic (27) since the start of 2021 in the big five European Leagues.
– Fiorentina have scored four goals against Milan in a Serie A game for the first time since January 2001: a 4-0 win under Fatih Terim.
– Saponara has scored four goals against Milan in Serie A, at least double that he has managed against any other team in the competition.
– Alfred Duncan has scored his second goal for Fiorentina in Serie A, 475 days after his first for the Viola.
Before facing Sassuolo next weekend, Milan have a must-win game at Atletico Madrid to come in the Champions League on Wednesday. Fiorentina are back in Serie A action in a week’s time with a trip to Empoli.