Clarence Seedorf’s honeymoon period is already over, as Milan fumbled an early lead and went out of the Coppa Italia 2-1 to Udinese.
Seedorf won his management debut 1-0 over Verona on Sunday thanks to a late Mario Balotelli penalty. The Coppa Italia had become very important for the Rossoneri, as it was their best chance of qualifying for Europe. Udinese knocked Inter out in the last round, but were fresh from a 3-2 home defeat to 10-man Lazio in the League.
A flu epidemic spread through the Milan squad, ruling out Bryan Cristante, Andrea Poli and Cristian Zaccardo, while Stephan El Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini and Sulley Muntari were sidelined.
Bruno Fernandes had an excellent scoring opportunity for Udinese only to lose his footing as he was preparing to shoot from 10 yards. Milan immediately went on the counter-attack and scored, as Valter Birsa rolled in from the right and Robinho only glanced the ball, allowing it through for the unmarked Balotelli to tap in.
Christian Abbiati fingertipped an Emmanuel Badu effort just wide and Bruno Fernandes blasted over, then the Portuguese talent’s shot was deflected for a corner by Cristian Zapata.
Abbiati had to beat away another Badu shot at the near post, as the visitors put together a series of corner kicks. Philippe Mexes had originally been left out of the squad, but was a last-minute addition amid the flu epidemic and was then thrown on to the pitch when Zapata picked up an injury.
Nigel De Jong’s error sparked another dangerous Udinese move, but Abbiati smothered the Bruno Fernandes finish.
Udinese were increasingly aggressive and before the break Widmer burst into the box, brought down clumsily by Urby Emanuelson. Luis Muriel stepped up and converted the penalty despite Abbiati getting close to it.
The second half began the same way the first had concluded, with the Friulani looking the more likely to score. There was a well-worked move with a Bruno Fernandes backheel flick and concluded with Abbiati blocking the Lazzari finish, but at the other end Zeljko Brkic’s poor punch on a Robinho cross risked giving Balotelli an open goal to aim at.
Adil Rami crucially tackled Muriel, who hesitated a little too long before getting his shot away in the box, as the San Siro crowd started to lose patience with this performance.
Roberto Pereyra came off the bench and within 120 seconds had volleyed over with his knee from Gabriel Silva’s cross.
Balotelli’s powerful free kick was arrowing under the bar were it not for Brkic’s gloves, but Udinese wasted a golden opportunity. Pereyra scuffed his finish after springing the offside trap, then pulled back for Muriel who also hit a fresh-air shot.
Thomas Heurtaux nodded over the bar from a corner, but the Udinese goal arrived eventually. Nico Lopez sprinted on the counter from his own half and smashed a daisy-cutter into the near bottom corner past Abbiati’s helpless fingertips.
The fightback from Milan was unimpressive, as Keisuke Honda and Mexes earned yellow cards, but there were precious few scoring opportunities. In stoppages Balotelli's curling effort was well grabbed by Brkic, but the crowd expressed its displeasure with the overall performance.
Udinese go through to the Coppa Italia semi-final, where they will face the winners of Thursday’s Fiorentina-Siena match.
Milan 1-2 Udinese
Scorers: Balotelli 6 (M), Muriel pen 41 (U), Nico Lopez 77 (U)
Milan: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Zapata (Mexes 36), Rami, Emanuelson (Abate 86); De Jong, Nocerino (Honda 81); Birsa, Kaka, Robinho; Balotelli
Udinese: Brkic; Danilo, Heurtaux, Domizzi; Gabriel Silva, Widmer, Allan, Badu, Lazzari (Pinzi 93); Bruno Fernandes (Pereyra 68); Muriel (Nico Lopez 74)