Milan (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored two first-half goals before being sent off after an hour as AC Milan 10-side beat Parma 3-1 on Saturday to boost their Champions League hopes.
The 39-year-old Swede received a red card for arguing with referee at Stadio Ennio Tardini when his side had a two-goal lead.
Riccardo Gagliolo pulled one off for 19th-placed Parma minutes after Ibrahimovic’s dismissal, but Milan held on despite some late fears, with substitute Rafael Leao scoring a third in added time.
Milan, second, closed the gap with the leader of Inter, who welcomes Sunday Cagliari, 18th, to eight points.
Stefano Pioli’s Milan are pushing for a return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.
Struggling defending champions Juventus are four points behind third-place Milan before hosting Genoa on Sunday, when fourth-place Atalanta, which is another adrift point, plays Fiorentina.
“It was important to win,” said Pioli. “Ibra told me he didn’t insult the referee.
“He told me that he had a discussion that went on for a while, but he hadn’t shown disrespect or insulted him at all.
“He told me that the last thing he said to (referee Fabio) Maresca was, ‘So you don’t care what I say?’”.
Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe denied Franck Kessie early on before Ibrahimovic kicked the ball over for Ante Rebic, who spun and exploded in the opener of the ninth minute.
Ibrahimovic then combined with Theo Hernandez and pushed Kessie to break through in the second just before the break.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma did well to save a header from Andrea Conti and follow-up from Graziano Pelle five minutes into the second half.
But Ibrahimovic received his marching orders for a comment to the referee on an incident in midfield in which he was not involved.
Gagliolo gave Parma a lifeline, beating Donnarumma, who made crucial late saves before Leao added a third as Milan claimed a club record 13 away wins this campaign.
– Ibrahimovic “ close ” to a new agreement –
Milan are set to do without Ibrahimovic for their next two home games against Genoa and Sassuolo as Pioli’s men look for a first victory at San Siro in more than two months.
Ibrahimovic, who won his 300th game in Europe’s top five leagues on Saturday, will return for the trip against Lazio’s top four rivals on April 26.
Ahead of the game, club manager Paolo Maldini confirmed that Ibrahimovic is set to renew his contract for another season.
The Sweden international, who turns 40 in October, has turned Milan again into a title contender since returning among the seven-time European champions in January last year.
“For Ibrahimovic, only small details are missing, we are very close to renewal,” said Maldini.
Ibrahimovic, who helped Milan reach their last Scudetto in 2011, is the club’s top scorer with 15 goals in 17 league appearances this season despite injuries and illnesses.
Contract negotiations with Donnarumma are less advanced.
“It takes two to make a deal,” Maldini said of the 22-year-old Italy international.
Pioli said after the game that he hoped to convince Donnarumma to join the club.
“My advice to Donnarumma is to stay, because Milan are a top club in every way. We are building something.
“My players are not yet winners, but they are fighting again to win.”
In the battle against relegation, Torino ended their four-game winless streak with captain Andrea Belotti who converted a penalty after a Tolgay Arslan foul in a 1-0 win over 12th-placed Udinese, who fell to a third straight loss.
“The attitude has to be what we saw today and against Juve,” said Belotti, whose side held the champions 2-2 last weekend, and who are now five points clear. on the drop zone.
Spezia, in 14th position, struck twice in three minutes before the final whistle for a 3-2 win to deny basement club Crotone.
Martin Erlic set up Giulio Maggiore to bring Spezia back to level after 89 minutes with the Croatian defender then nodding in an injury time winner.