Dubai: Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck twice in his first match back from coronavirus on Saturday as AC Milan beat city rivals Inter Milan 2-1 to take top spot in Serie A ahead of Atalanta who slumped 4-1 at Napoli.
But champions Juventus, playing without quarantined Cristiano Ronaldo, were held 1-1 at promoted Crotone whose first top-flight point this season moved the southerners off the bottom of the table.
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“This derby was very important, a derby that AC Milan hadn’t won for four years,” said Ibrahimovic who bagged his second double in as many league matches.
Milan have now won their opening four Serie A matches for the first time since the 1995-1996 season when they won the title under Fabio Capello.
The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic stamped his mark on the game early, having also scored back in February only for Inter to win 4-2.
He missed a penalty after 13 minutes but turned in the rebound, with a perfect Rafael Leao cross setting up the Swede for the second three minutes later.
“I was hungry and I showed it. No I wasn’t afraid of Covid-19. I did tests every three days, but I couldn’t miss the derby.”
Romelu Lukaku pulled a goal back for Inter after half an hour for his fourth goal in as many matches but Antonio Conte’s side were struggling with six players out to Covid-19.
Milan are top of the table with maximum 12 points, three ahead of Atalanta who fell to third-placed Napoli, who are equal on points with fourth-placed Juventus.
Chiesa sees red on debut
Juventus settled for their second stalemate in four games, despite being awarded a 3-0 win before the international break after Napoli’s no-show in Turin.
Andrea Pirlo’s side were without Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala and played the last half an hour a man down after new signing Federico Chiesa was sent off on his debut.
Crotone took the lead after 12 minutes when Nigerian Simy got a penalty past veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon making his 650th Serie A appearance.
Chiesa, 22, set up Alvaro Morata for the equaliser nine minutes later but the 22-year-old was harshly sent off for a late tackle on Luca Cigarin.
Morato missed two chances for the winner with a header rattling the bar with the Spaniard having a goal ruled offside after a VAR review.
In Naples, Hirving Lozano struck twice as Napoli powered back days after they were deducted a point for their Juventus no-show.
But Gennaro Gattuso’s side picked up where they left off before the coronavirus row, with a third win in as many league games they have played.
“I’ve heard say that we didn’t want to go (to Turin), it’s not true,” said Gattuso.
“I’m more angry than anyone that we weren’t allowed to go.”
Napoli maintained they had to remain in isolation on local health authority instructions.
“Juventus are a team under construction,” continued Gattuso. “I had the feeling that we could play that match like we did today.”
Osimhen takes a stand
Slovenia forward Josip Ilicic returned for highly fancied Atalanta after nearly three months out with personal problems.
But Mexican forward Lozano scored two quick-fire goals in the first half, his second so far this season.
Lozano tapped in a Giovanni Di Lorenzo cross after 20 minutes, curling in the second minutes later after a mix-up in the Atalanta defence.
Matteo Politano blasted in a third after half an hour with Victor Osimhen scoring his first Napoli goal just before the break after another defensive blunder.
Osimhen held up a T-shirt after his debut goal on which was written “End Police Brutality in Nigeria” as protests against law enforcement violence continue in his home country.
Substitute Sam Lammers pulled a goal back with 20 minutes to go, but Atalanta drop into second place with Napoli a point behind them in third.
“This defeat as a wake-up call,” said Gasperini ahead of starting their Champions League against Danish club Midtjylland on Wednesday.
“We had problems from every point of view, we suffered against Napoli.”
Lazio, without suspended striker Ciro Immobile, fell to a 3-0 defat at Sampdoria, before their Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund.