Zlatan Ibrahimovic smashed Milan’s Sicilian taboo in style with a first half hat-trick as they ran out 4-0 winners in Palermo.
The Rossoneri welcomed back Ibrahimovic from a three-match ban for violent conduct, but lost Philippe Mexes for the same reason. With Alessandro Nesta and Mario Yepes also sidelined, Daniele Bonera had to take over at centre-back. Antonio Nocerino faced his former club. The injury list included Alexandre Pato, Maxi Lopez, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alessandro Nesta, Alexander Merkel, Rodney Strasser, Clarence Seedorf, Alberto Aquilani, Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Cassano. Milan wore black armbands after the death of former Board member Carlo Montanari.
Palermo had Federico Balzaretti suspended with Matias Silvestre and Armin Bacinovic injured, allowing Giulio Migliaccio into central defence. The Sicilians had won the last four editions of this Serie A fixture, five including the Coppa Italia, and were undefeated here since February 2006.
It was an aggressive start from the visitors, as Emiliano Viviano beat away an Ibra snapshot in the opening three minutes. From the following corner, Urby Emanuelson drilled wide of the near post. Viviano smothered another effort from the Dutchman.
Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock at the Stadio Barbera when Sulley Muntari won back possession in midfield from Andrea Mantovani and immediately set up Robinho, who threaded through for Zlatan to smash under the bar.
Igor Budan nodded a Fabrizio Miccoli free kick off target, but another set piece caused further danger when Mantovani had his shot charged down from nine yards and Milan desperately scrambled clear.
However, from that incident the visitors went on a counter-attack with four against three and Ibrahimovic skipped past a defender to toe-poke a daisy-cutter past Viviano.
Palermo simply could not handle the Swede and Ibrahimovic completed his hat-trick after 35 minutes. Defenders backed off outside the box and he had time to pick his spot, curling a magnificent shot into the far top corner. Viviano was rooted to the spot.
It was so nearly four for Ibra moments later, as another woeful Palermo corner left them wide open on the counter and only a great Viviano save with his leg denied the striker.
Ibrahimovic’s header from a corner was punched out from under the crossbar at the dawn of the second half. Viviano was then at full stretch to palm a low Thiago Silva free kick off the line. Emanuelson picked up a knock to the ankle and made way for Stephan El Shaarawy.
The ‘Little Pharaoh’ immediately tried to side-foot into the far bottom corner, forcing a great save from Viviano.
Milan did get their fourth with defender Thiago Silva, who nodded in a curling El Shaarawy cross from the left.
Palermo had an opportunity with a Josip Ilicic effort from distance, but Christian Abbiati was alert. Moments later a pass behind Thiago Silva found Barreto, but his strike smacked the post to Abbiati’s right.
Milan had effectively relaxed by this stage and allowed the Rosanero to keep hold of the ball. They risked losing the clean sheet in the final stages when Eran Zahavi pounced on a poor defensive error, but ballooned over the bar with his first touch of the game. Pippo Inzaghi was given a rare run-out, but was flagged offside in a good opportunity.