Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice but was unable to rescue Milan as their unbeaten start in Serie A ended with a thrilling 4-3 loss at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Rossoneri had made their best start to a top-flight season in the three-points-per win era after 12 matches and had a chance to move clear at the top of the table, but ​their 17-game unbeaten run in the league stretching back into last season was halted at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Joseph Alfred Duncan profited from a calamitous mix-up between Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia to fire the hosts ahead, before former Milan player Riccardo Saponara curled in a sensational second shortly before half-time.

Dusan Vlahovic extended Fiorentina's advantage, and while Ibrahimovic struck twice in five minutes to set up a tense period, the Serbia international notched his 14th league goal of the season to render Lorenzo Venuti's late own goal nothing more than a consolation.

Milan found themselves behind with 15 minutes played in rather comical circumstances as Tatarusanu spilled a corner and Gabbia attempted to shield the ball for his goalkeeper, but Alfred Duncan got to it first and prodded in from close range. 

Pietro Terracciano frustrated Milan with a couple of impressive stops and Ibrahimovic diverted wide from inside the six-yard box – a miss that would prove costly as Saponara bent a delightful 25-yard shot away from Tatarusanu into the top-right corner.

Vlahovic added a third against the run of play after an hour with a composed finish from a tight angle once played in by Alfred Duncan, but Milan were soon back in the game through Ibrahimovic's double.

The striker profited from a loose Giacomo Bonaventura pass to thump past Terracciano and then turned home Theo Hernandez's cut-back to leave Fiorentina sweating.

Venuti put into his own net deep into added time after Ibrahimovic's header hit the woodwork and ricocheted in off his face, but only after Vlahovic had settled any nerves with his second of the match in the 85th minute.

 

 

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano hailed Dusan Vlahovic following his hat-trick in Sunday's 3-0 Serie A win over Spezia.

Vlahovic became one of only two players born since 2000 to score two hat-tricks in the top five European leagues, alongside Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, as Fiorentina eased past Spezia.

Serbia international Vlahovic, who is set to leave Florence after opting against signing a new deal, converted a 44th-minute penalty to open the scoring.

Vlahovic struck again in the 62nd and 74th minutes as the 21-year-old took his tally to 25 goals in 2021 – one of only two players to net at least 25 goals in a calendar year with Fiorentina, alongside Kurt Roland Hamrin (27 in 1960 and 25 in 1959).

"The goals are like fuel for the attacker's engine," Italiano told DAZN after Vlahovic improved his season haul to eight goals from 11 rounds. "When you create and don't score, you lack a bit of self-esteem.

"When you score three, I can't wait to see him on Tuesday to prepare for the next match. When the three up front do well, the team benefit from it."

Vlahovic – linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Juventus, Arsenal and Tottenham – has netted 25 goals in 35 league matches this year, only Haaland (26) and Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski (36) have scored more in the big five European leagues in the calendar year.

Prior to Vlahovic, the last player able to score eight-plus goals in the first 11 Fiorentina's matches in a single Serie A campaign was Giuseppe Rossi in 2013-14 (nine).

Vlahovic is also one of the only three players that have scored 100 per cent of penalties taken in Serie A since Opta collected this data (since 2005-06), with Romelu Lukaku and David Suazo (minimum 11 penalties taken).

"He holds me in great esteem, he always shows it to me and today he wanted to bow to me to thank me," added Fiorentina team-mate Riccardo Saponara.

"Seeing him play like this does not surprise me, from the first day I saw great potential in him."

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