AC Milan took care of business on Monday night at San Siro as they beat Bologna 2-0 to record a win to kick start their 2020-21 Serie A campaign.
Ultimately, it would be the Zlatan Ibrahimovic show as the striker scored either side of half-time to take his tally to three goals for the season, netting with a trademark towering header and an even more trademark emphatic penalty.
Head coach Stefano Pioli has opted for no real surprises in his first line-up of the 2020-21 Serie A season with defensive trio Alessio Romagnoli, Mateo Musacchio and Andrea Conti all injured, while Rafael Leao returned to Milanello on Monday having been in quarantine.
Ante Rebic did return from suspension though, and he slotted straight back into the XI on the left, with Samu Castillejo preferred to Alexis Saelemaekers on the right.
The away side began well pressing Milan high up the pitch, and Ismael Bennacer was almost punished for a giveaway on the edge of his own box as a Soriano shot was blocked wide by Kessie following a ricochet.
The Rossoneri then began growing into the game and had an early handball shout turned down as Calhanoglu attempted to flick the ball back past the defender.
In the 12th minute Milan generated their first clear chance. Some lovely combination play down the right side involving Calabria and Ibrahimovic saw the latter find some space to shoot from inside the area, but his effort was deflected narrowly wide of the far left post.
Moments later the home side cut through Bologna again this time down the left side, with Theo Hernandez finding Calhanoglu with a pass infield, though the Turkey international should have done better than dragging his effort wide from the edge of the box in space.
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s fingertips were warmed for the first time in the 22nd minute as the Rossoblu’s first real counter of the game ended with Dominguez firing a shot towards the top right corner that the Rossoneri’s No.99 easily pulled in.
Centre-back Matteo Gabbia had a big chance to open the deadlock a few minutes later as a free-kick swung in from the byline was hit back into the box by Rebic, but the young Italian spun and skewed his effort wide first time from around six yards out.
The chance kept coming, and Franck Kessie became the latest player to shank a shot wide from just outside the box when he could have taken a touch.
Just seconds later, the 1,000 spectators allowed inside the stadium were stunned as Ismael Bennacer missed a sitter. Ibrahimovic did well to hold the ball up inside the area and the Swede fired a low cross into the box that Skorupski parried straight to the Algerian, who somehow managed to fire the ball over and wide with the goal gaping.
Ten minutes before the break, Milan got their deserved opener. An impressive spell of controlled possession inside the Bologna third ended with Theo Hernandez whipping in an inch-perfect cross to the far post, where none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic was waiting to tower above his man and headed inside the post.
GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL! IBRA! pic.twitter.com/8lTVje9ieW
— MilanGifs (@MilanGifs) September 21, 2020
Pioli’s side pushed to try and close out the first half with a second goal, and Calhanoglu should have done better after bringing the ball under control 18 yards out from Rebic’s feed, the former Leverkusen man firing a wild effort over and wide in space.
The Milan boss opted to make a change at half-time, with the struggling Castillejo making way from Alexis Saelemaekers, and the Belgian should have had an assist within two minutes. He dropped a ball back to Ibrahimovic on the break but the 38-year-old saw his effort turned away for a corner when he should have done better.
However, Ibrahimovic would get chance to make amends for his miss in the 51st minute as Milan were awarded a spot kick following VAR intervention for a foul on Calabria that was initially adjudged to be outside the box. In typical Zlatan fashion, he stepped up and thumped the spot kick into the top corner, beating Skorupski easily despite the fact he guessed the right way.
GOOOOOAAAAALLLLL! IBRA! pic.twitter.com/qwwHndgR6a
— MilanGifs (@MilanGifs) September 21, 2020
Ibrahimovic could have had his hat-trick not long after as Milan began to smell blood; this time Skorupski was equal to his effort from the edge of the box to parry away.
The veteran striker really should have had his hat-trick in the 64th minute as Milan broke in a two-on-one situation down the right, and as Calhanoglu found Ibrahimovic and he rounded the keeper a third goal seemed a certainly, but he somehow sent his effort over albeit on his weaker foot from a narrow angle.
Brahim Diaz made his first Serie A appearance for the Rossoneri as he came on inside the final 20 minutes for Calhanoglu, while Leo Duarte came on for Simon Kjaer.
Theo Hernandez almost got a third for Milan after a fantastic chest touch and half volley that was dipping under the crossbar, but Skorupski to his credit made an amazing save.
Immediately after, Sandro Tonali made his league debut for the club, replacing the excellent Kessie.
Donnarumma was called into action to make a fine save low to his left side just before the last 10 minutes after Skov Olsen had led Bologna on a break and beaten Gabbia to get the shot off.
The Milan keeper was called into action again to block a shot from Sansone at the near post after Calabria had shown him outside.
The fifth and final sub came with five minutes left as the ever-tenacious Bennacer came off for Rade Krunic.
A sloppy last quarter of the game saw Bologna dominate play, but any chance of a comeback from them was ended when Dijks was sent off for a second booking inside the final few minutes as the Diavolo held their advantage to secure a vital opening game win.