Despite all pre-match talk being dominated by the return of 41-year-old Milan forward Ibrahimović, it was opposing captain Roberto Pereyra who stole the limelight early on, as Udinese raced into a ninth-minute lead.
Fikayo Tomori was beaten to a ball and then caught out of position, as Pereyra slotted in at the far post, leaving Mike Maignan rooted to the spot.
Stefano Pioli’s men responded well, but Udinese’s backline held firm against the waves of red and black, who were already desperate to avoid a fourth loss across six SA away games in 2023.
As is the way of reigning champions, Milan did eventually find an equaliser, albeit in controversial fashion during first-half stoppage time, after Jaka Bijol was harshly punished for a handball offence inside the area, handing the Rossoneri a penalty.
Ibrahimović stepped up as he looked to successfully convert for an 85th time in 102 career penalties, but the Swede’s storybook return was seemingly trashed by Marco Silvestri, who saved his spot-kick brilliantly.
His joy would be short-lived though, as encroachment from the Bianconeri defenders meant it would be re-taken, and the timeless man so often hailed simply as ‘Ibra’ made no mistake the second time round, netting on his first SA appearance in over a year.
Furious Udinese manager Andrea Sottil was sent off for his protestations, but by the time he returned to his dressing room, his sides were ahead again.
Now into a sixth minute of added time before the interval, Isaac Success’ cross from the left found Beto, who reacted quickest and turned in at the near post, reviving hopes of the Zebretti’s first set of successive wins in five months.
The Rossoneri appeared to still be shellshocked after the restart, and eventually found themselves further behind.
Destiny Udogie’s shot was heading wide of the far post, but Kingsley Ehizibue arrived to steer into an empty net and put the contest beyond the defending champions after a short VAR review confirmed Udinese’s first home win of 2023.
The result moves them level on points with the top seven, while Milan’s place in the top four looks more tenuous than ever, after a third straight league match without a victory.
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