Serie A Week 4 - 23 Sep 2012 (14.00 UK)
Udinese 2 - 1 Milan
Ranegie 40 (U), El Shaarawy 54 (M), Di Natale pen 68 (U)
Stadio Friuli

It’s crisis time for Milan after they had two men sent off in their 2-1 defeat to Udinese, giving the Friulani their first win of the season.

This fixture already felt like a crossroads for both clubs and Coaches. Massimiliano Allegri was hanging by a thread after two defeats in the opening three rounds and a disappointing home draw with Anderlecht, not to mention reports of a row with youth team boss Pippo Inzaghi this week. Francesco Guidolin admitted the tension of their Champions League play-off elimination was dragging on, as Udinese were without a single victory in all competition this season. Antonio Di Natale’s late equaliser scraped a home draw against Anzhi on Thursday.

Andrea Lazzarri sat out a ban for the home side, joining the injured Luis Muriel and Maurizio Domizzi in the stands. As always, Milan’s absentee list was long and included Robinho, Alexandre Pato, Mario Yepes, Mathieu Flamini, Sulley Muntari, Didac Vila and Rodney Strasser, though Riccardo Montolivo returned from a thigh strain. Both sides had new attacks, Mathias Ranegie partnering Di Natale and Kevin-Prince Boateng rested.

Allan lost the ball to spark several shots charged down in the box, eventually Giampaolo Pazzini’s scuffed finish palmed round the post. Zeljko Brkic held a Philippe Mexes overhead kick from the resulting corner.

Udinese slowly moved into the game and Roberto Pereyra dribbled down the right to pull back for Di Natale, but the veteran striker got the ball caught between his feet and couldn’t release the shot from close range.

Montolivo drilled wide from distance and an acrobatic Mehdi Benatia half-volley from Di Natale’s assist was plucked out from under the bar.

The Friulani increasingly took control as the first half wore on, but Stephan El Shaarawy’s curler was deflected inches wide from the edge of the box by Benatia.

The pressure had been building and Udinese took the lead moments later with Ranegie’s first Serie A goal. The 28-year-old Swede made quite an impact, pouncing on a Christian Abbiati error to tap in. The goalkeeper completely mistimed his run to intercept a nodded-on free kick, allowing Ranegie to nod in from six yards.

After the restart Abbiati smothered a weak Allan attempt and Boateng replaced Massimo Ambrosini, but went for a deeper midfield role than he is accustomed to.

Milan equalised with an absolute blockbuster of a right-foot strike from El Shaarawy, who smashed it across Brkic into the far top corner from outside the box. The ‘Little Pharaoh’ has a remarkable affinity with Udinese, scoring three Serie A goals past them.

Di Natale was allowed a totally free header from six yards that Abbiati did brilliantly to palm out from under the bar.

From the resulting corner, Cristian Zapata clipped Ranegie’s heel for a penalty from six yards and second yellow card. In a way, both teams were irritated at the referee’s decision, as play had continued after that foul for Di Natale to tap in. Nonetheless, Di Natale stepped up and coolly converted by sending Abbiati the wrong way.

Brkic parried a spectacular Pazzini acrobatic attempt, but Milan went down to nine men for the final eight minutes as Boateng received a second yellow card. It seemed like frankly a harsh decision for his tussle with Pereyra

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Udinese: Brkic; Benatia, Danilo, Coda; Faraoni (Badu 62), Allan, Pinzi, Pereyra, Pasquale; Ranegie; Di Natale (Fabbrini 88)
Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Mexes, Mesbah; Montolivo, Ambrosini (Boateng 53), Nocerino (Bojan 80); Emanuelson (Acerbi 69), Pazzini, El Shaarawy
Ref: Celi

Sent off: Zapata 67 (M), Boateng 82 (M)