No one remembers Zlatan Ibrahimovic losing a single duel in the derby of Milan which he decided with a brace. The Swede gave his best in aerial battles, exposing each one of Inter’s three defenders to serious problems. He combined his specialty was alternated with flashes of brilliance with the ball at his feet. It was no coincidence the penalty through which Milan opened the scoring was won by the 39-year-old with superb ball control and hold up play which forced Aleksandar Kolarov into a foul that, in all honesty, could have been avoided.
Ibra has not only confirmed he is still a ruthless striker with 16 goals in 23 appearances since he returned to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in January. He is also an incredible tactical weapon for the Rossoneri's coach Stefano Pioli who can always rely on long balls when his team is struggling to keep the ball.
That’s exactly what Milan did to ease Inter’s pressing which is always very intense. Every time they seemed close to losing the plot, the Rossoneri looked for their leaders with long passes and, fortunately for them, the former Man United star managed to always make something out of it.
He didn’t just nulify both Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kolarov, who were makeshift centre-backs in Antonio Conte's three-man backline, but he also hide the ball for 90 minutes from best defender in Serie A last season, namely Stefan de Vrij. Ibra is not a leader only inside the locker room. He goes out there and proves it on the pitch. Once again, it can’t come as a surprise that everyone around him has improved their performances at Milan since he arrived. From Hakan Calhanoglu to Rafael Leao who provided the assist for Ibra’s second goal on Saturday.
One question, however, must be asked. Is such a dominating 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic good news for Serie A? Certainly, the rhythm and the pace of Italian football compared to the Premier League, for example, is not as high. As we all know, the league is very tactical, made of experienced coaches and players who are maybe not the quickest in Europe. The post-lockdown matches have also featured a sort of dip in every game in Italy and in the rest of Europe as the fixture list has been extremely busy of late.
Zlatan, however, has scored against every kind of opponent Milan have faced since he returned. He scored against every big opponent of the Diavoli: Inter (again), Lazio and Juventus last season plus the latest brace in the derby. Serie A may not be the top league that it used to be back in the ‘90s but it is indisputably getting back to its standards. The fact that Ibra left his mark in every big occasion since last January proves his domination is not a problem for Serie A. On the contrary, he will be a noticeably big problem for each one of Milan’s next opponents. Regardless of who they are.
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