Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrated his
return from a three-match ban by scoring a 15-minute first-half
hat-trick as leaders AC Milan demolished Palermo 4-0 away in
Serie A on Saturday.
The win took title holders Milan three points clear of
second-placed Juventus who only managed a 1-1 draw at home to
mid-table Chievo despite taking a first-half lead through Paolo
Boukary Drame levelled for Chievo in the 76th minute as
Juventus, who are still unbeaten, drew for the fourth time in
their last five Serie A outings.
Milan moved onto 54 points from 26 games while Juventus have
a game in hand.
Robinho set up the first two of Ibrahimovic's goals while
Thiago Silva completed the scoring as eighth-placed Palermo, who
beat Lazio 5-1 in their last home game, were overwhelmed.
"We are playing the way we want, we are always dangerous
when we attack," said Ibrahimovic, who completed his ban with
last week's 1-1 draw at home to Juventus and joined Udinese's
Antonio Di Natale as Serie A leading scorer on 18 goals.
"It's my second hat-trick in Italy but the goals are a bonus
for me," added the Swede. "I didn't like missing the Juventus
match, I've suffered and I've paid but the team has done well
Ibrahimovic, banned for slapping a defender against Napoli,
fired an early warning when he had a shot saved by Viviano after
only three minutes.
Despite the absence of Philippe Mexes, himself starting a
three-match ban for violent conduct, and the injured
Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alessandro Nesta and Alexandre Pato, Milan
were in total control with Urby Emanuelson twice close to
It was therefore no surprise when they went ahead, Robinho
threading the ball to Ibrahimovic who fired into the roof of the
Palermo, unbeaten at home against Milan since 2006, nearly
equalised in a goalmouth scramble 10 minutes later but instead
Milan broke, Robinho fed Ibrahimovic and the striker skipped
past a tackle before scoring with a casual toe-poke.
His crowning moment came four minutes later when he curled a
left-foot shot beyond the bemused Viviano.
The goalkeeper denied Ibrahimovic a fourth goal before the
break as Milan could easily have doubled their tally.
The visitors, who have scored 53 league goals this season,
eased off in the second half but still got a fourth when Thiago
Silva rose to head in El Shaaraway's cross in the 58th minute.
"The chance of ending Palermo's recent run of wins against
Milan in the last six years gave us an extra incentive," said
coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Juventus repeated their habit this season of starting well
at home and then fading in the second half.
De Ceglie headed Juventus in front in the 18th minute after
Giorgio Chiellini's header rebounded off the post following a
Despite their early lead, Juve struggled to create chances
with Mirko Vucinic repeatedly losing the ball as he tried to go
it alone, frustrating his striking partner Alessandro Matri.
Although Simone Padoin forced Chievo goalkeeper Stefano
Sorrentino to make a desperate save with his foot on the hour,
the warning signs were there for Juventus when Davide
Moscardelli headed wide from an unmarked position.
The visitors equalised with a powerful low drive from Drame
in the 76th minute, the goal being awarded to the Senegalese
full-back despite being turned in by Leonardo Bonucci.
Talismanic playmaker Alessandro Del Piero was brought on by
Juve for the last few minutes but the 37-year-old did not have
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