Serie A Week 23 - 11 Feb 2012 (17.00 UK)
Udinese 1 - 2 Milan
Di Natale 19 (U), Maxi Lopez 77 (M), El Shaarawy 85 (M)
Stadio Friuli

Maxi Lopez came off the bench to score his first Milan goal and set up Stephan El Shaarawy’s winner, ending Udinese’s unbeaten home record.

This was a head-to-head battle for second place, as only three points separated the teams. Zlatan Ibrahimovic began his three-match ban, while Mark Van Bommel was also suspended. The injury list included Christian Abbiati, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alexandre Pato, Alessandro Nesta, Alberto Aquilani, Gennaro Gattuso, Mario Yepes, Mathieu Flamini, Antonio Cassano, Alexander Merkel and Rodney Strasser. Udinese missed Andrea Coda, Giampiero Pinzi and Paulo Vitor Barreto.

There was no snow at the Friuli, but it was extremely windy, which made play difficult for the two teams. Milan’s last win here was in 2008 and Michele Pazienza crucially intercepted Robinho’s cross as Stephan El Shaarawy was pulling the trigger.

Udinese broke the deadlock with their first real scoring opportunity. Antonio Di Natale completed a give-and-go with Gelson Fernandes and the snapshot from just inside the area took a decisive deflection off Thiago Silva to loop over Marco Amelia.

Mauricio Isla went on a promising solo run before aiming a weak finish at Amelia, while Di Natale skipped past Philippe Mexes only to attempt an audacious lob at the near post.

A misplaced midfield pass sparked an Udinese counter-attack that Di Natale scuffed wide when totally unmarked. A promising Milan attack fell apart on the edge of the area when Robinho tripped up over the ball. The first real shot on target from the Rossoneri came after 43 minutes with Mexes firing straight at the goalkeeper.

There was a great chance in first half stoppages, as Danilo waited for SamirHandanovic to come out and gather a cross, allowing El Shaarawy to pounce and volley off target.

After the restart, Antonio Nocerino just failed to get his head to a wayward Urby Emanuelson effort.

Massimo Ambrosini accidentally fell on top of Isla, as the Chilean went down awkwardly and seemed to bend his knee, so was stretchered off in evident pain. There are fears there could be ligament damage.

It was so nearly 2-0, as Di Natale rolled the ball across for Pablo Armero, but Djamel Mesbah got back for an absolutely decisive intervention to stop him tapping in undisturbed from nine yards.

Armero went on the counter into the box, but Ignazio Abate sprinted at his shoulder to put him off. Maxi Lopez came off the bench to form a Milan trident. The Argentine thought he’d earned a free kick, but the referee waved play on and Udinese went on the counter, as Amelia was at full stretch to palm away a Maurizio Domizzi angled drive.

From that corner, Amelia fingertipped a looping Danilo half-volley that was heading under the bar. However, Udinese were caught out from their own corner this time, as Handanovic only pushed an El Shaarawy strike into the path of Maxi Lopez for his first goal in a Milan jersey.

It was so nearly 2-1 for the Rossoneri moments later when El Shaarawy pounced on a Mehdi Benatia error in the area, but Robinho and the ‘Little Pharaoh’ both kicked at the same time and the scuffed shot allowed Danilo to clear off the line.

Amelia beat away an Armero snapshot after Seedorf lost possession in midfield, but Milan struck on the counter again.

Maxi Lopez sprung the offside trap on a long ball from midfield and rolled across for El Shaarawy to smash his first-time shot under the bar from eight yards at the near post.

Udinese poured forward and Amelia had his gloves stung by an Almen Abdi half-volley from a tight angle. 

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Udinese: Handanovic; Benatia, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Isla (Pasquale 61), Pazienza (Torje 88), Fernandes, Armero; Abdi; Di Natale (Floro Flores 75)
Milan: Amelia; Abate, Mexes, Thiago Silva, Mesbah; Emanuelson, Ambrosini, Nocerino (Maxi Lopez 66); Seedorf; El Shaarawy, Robinho (Bonera 88)
Ref: Bergonzi