It was a 1-1 draw dominated by VAR, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal disallowed, Dalbert was sent off and a contentious late Fiorentina penalty cancelled out Ante Rebic’s strike.
Hakan Calhanoglu returned from injury with Matteo Gabbia stepping into defence for his first Serie A start, as Rade Krunic, Simon Kjaer and Lucas Biglia didn’t make the trip. Dusan Vlahovic kept his spot alongside Federico Chiesa, with Patrick Cutrone on the bench against his former club, Franck Ribery and Christian Kouame long-term absentees. It was an emotional comeback to the Stadio Franchi for Stefano Pioli, who helped the team get through the Davide Astori tragedy. There was even a banner: ‘Real man and great leader. Stefano always one of us.’
It was a difficult start for Gianluigi Donnarumma, as his gloves were stung by Nikola Milenkovic on a surprising run forward, then Federico Chiesa pounced on a poor back-pass only for Gaetano Castrovilli to balloon over from 12 yards.
At the other end, Ante Rebic sprung the offside trap for a glancing header well saved by Bartlomiej Dragowski from close range.
Pol Lirola’s deflected header tested Donnarumma, then Milan thought they had taken the lead through Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede was a one-man battering ram, catching Dalbert in possession, skipping past one tackle, riding another and scoring past the on-rushing Dragowski. However, it was disallowed using VAR because of handball. Although Ibra’s arm was flush to his torso and it was kicked on to him from close range, the new rules state that the usual caveats do not apply when it is a forward either scoring the goal or gaining control of the ball with an arm.
It went from bad to worse for Milan, as Donnarumma had fallen awkwardly on his ankle in the first half and eventually had to make way for Asmir Begovic. Within 30 seconds, the Rossoneri debutant had to flap at a Chiesa header.
Milan took the lead with a gift from Martin Caceres, who chested down the cross for German Pezzella, not realising Rebic was right there ready to pounce from 12 yards.
The Rossoneri wanted a red card when Dalbert tripped Ibrahimovic outside the box, but the referee opted for a yellow. He changed his mind after the on-field review, flashing a straight red, as there were no other defenders able to prevent this clear scoring opportunity.
Patrick Cutrone came off the bench to face his former club, while Castillejo had the ball in the net only after clearly wandering offside.
Despite being against 10 men, Milan nearly conceded the equaliser on 72 minutes with a four against three counter-attack, as Vlahovic’s angled drive beat Begovic to clip the base of the far post.
There was another counter that sent Cutrone through and Alessio Romagnoli dived into the tackle, perhaps grazing the ball with a stud, but not considered enough contact to stop it being a penalty. Erick Pulgar drilled it into the near bottom corner, despite Begovic getting a hand to the ball.
The final minutes were wide open, impossible to tell who was down to 10 men, as Fiorentina had a huge double chance to win it. First Chiesa was denied by Begovic from point-blank range, then Vlahovic’s follow-up was deflected over.
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Sent off: Dalbert 62 (F)