MILAN – Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to action after four months out with a goal as AC Milan moved top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over Lazio after champions Inter Milan drew 2-2 at Sampdoria.
Stefano Pioli’s side are level on a perfect nine points with second-placed Napoli, who beat Juventus, thanks to Rafael Leao’s neat strike just before the break and a tap-in from forward Ibrahimovic seven minutes after making his comeback as a second-half substitute.
The Swedish star, who turns 40 in three weeks time, rolled home the simplest of finishes from Ante Rebic’s low cross in the 67th minute to banish a knee injury he suffered at the back of last season, ensuring his team went two points ahead of city rivals Inter and Udinese, who won 1-0 at Spezia earlier on Sunday.
“It’s been four months since he last played, I’m happy he started well out there, that he’s doing well,” Pioli told DAZN.
“He’s got this passion, I believe that apart from his evident talent it’s the passion, the fire that he has inside him that makes training for him a pleasure… When you’re like that you don’t feel the advancing years.”
Milan were the better team on a glorious late summer’s evening at the San Siro and would have won even more convincingly had Franck Kessie not hit the bar from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.
They are three points ahead of Lazio, who sit sixth after their first defeat under new coach Maurizio Sarri, and Roma who host Sassuolo in Sunday’s late match.
Sarri’s team had scored nine times in their first two matches against the more accommodating opposition of promoted Empoli and Spezia but were toothless at Milan, whose fans revelled in another fine home display after watching their team put four past Cagliari just before the international break.
The coach was then shown a red card after the final whistle as the Milan and Lazio players got into a shoving match by the two dugouts, capping a miserable evening for the capital club.
Milan, meanwhile, turn their attention to Anfield and Wednesday night’s opening Champions League clash with Liverpool.
And when he was asked whether his side had big ambitions in Europe, Pioli said: “We should only be dreaming at night, in the day we need to work hard to realise those dreams”.
Earlier, Inter Milan’s perfect start to their defence of the Serie A title ended after they failed to beat a spirited Sampdoria side in Genoa following two wins in their opening two fixtures of the campaign.
Federico Dimarco and Lautaro Martinez twice put Simone Inzaghi’s side ahead at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris but strikes from Maya Yoshida and Tommaso Augello earned a draw for Roberto D’Aversa’s Sampdoria, who sit 15th with two points.
“It’s a game we should have and could have won,” Inzaghi told DAZN.
“We have to look at what happened because when a team like ours goes ahead twice we really should win.”
Inter host Real Madrid at the San Siro on Wednesday in their first Champions League group match of the season and will need more clinical finishing if they are to make it past the group stage this year.
In Sunday’s other matches, Torino made light work of promoted Salernitana, running out 4-0 winners to win their first match of the season despite the debut of Franck Ribery for their opponents.
Genoa also earned their first three points of the fledgling campaign with a 3-2 win at Cagliari which moved them out of the relegation zone.