Rome: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to earn AC Milan a 2-1 win over Roma and send the rossoneri seven points clear at the top of Serie A. (Agencies)
The title pressure is now firmly back on Juventus, who must beat Inter Milan in Turin today to keep pace with the champions. Pablo Osvaldo had given Roma a first half lead against the run of play yesterday but Milan dominated throughout, twice hitting the woodwork, and finally their greater quality told.
Ibrahimovic now has 22 goals in 23 league games this season.
"He really played like Ibrahimovic. In the second half he played the centre-forward role as he knows how to and he made the difference," said delighted coach Massimiliano Allegri.
"We conceded the only time Roma came forward in the first half and from a shot that was going wide, but these things happen in football.
"We had a good first half. In the second we tried to find the equaliser and then created other chances." The win was also a welcome boost ahead of Wednesday`s Champions League clash with Barcelona. "There are two ways to play against Barcelona – you either sit deep and hit them on the counter, which is difficult, or you go for it like we did in our return (group) match against them, when we made some mistakes," added Allegri.
Milan suffered a blow on 10 minutes when centre-back Thiago Silva asked to be taken off with a recurrence of a leg injury, putting him in doubt for the Barca match.
"We knew he was a risk, we risked him but he came off. I think it`s impossible that he will play on Wednesday," said Allegri. Despite the loss, Milan were in complete control, with Urby Emanuelson testing Maarten Stekelenburg before the goalkeeper also tipped over an Ibrahimovic free-kick.
Milan put together a slick move that resulted in the lively Stephan El Shaarawy shooting wide. Most of the rossoneri`s opportunities were just half-chances but Roma were offering nothing in attack.
Milan came within a whisker of the lead when El Shaarawy worked space on the edge of the box and beat Stekelenburg with a fizzing shot that rapped the bottom of the post, with neither Antonio Nocerino nor Ibrahimovic able to turn in the loose ball. And then, a minute from the break, Daniele De Rossi seized on a fluffed clearance from Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini to fire in a shot that Osvaldo alertly tapped home from six yards as Milan`s defenders failed to react.
Roma captain Francesco Totti should have done much better when presented with a glorious chance by a poor clearance from goalkeeper Christian Abbiati just after the restart, but he tried a chipped finish from outside the box that sailed over the bar.
They paid the price straight away as De Rossi blocked Ambrosini`s shot with his arm inside the box, allowing Ibrahimovic to stroke home a 53rd-minute penalty.
Stekelenburg then kept out an Ibrahimovic near-post shot with his foot as he dived the wrong way and got a finger-tip to a rasping Sulley Muntari volley to touch the ball onto the bar.
But it was no surprise eight minutes from time when Ibrahimovic snatched the points, latching onto Kevin-Prince Boateng`s long ball forward, chipping Stekelenburg and then holding off Simon Kjaer before nodding home the dropping ball.
Later, Udinese moved into the third and final Champions League berth when Gabriel Torje`s goal six minutes from time gave them a 1-1 draw at Palermo, for whom Fabrizio Miccoli opened the scoring. Lazio are level on points, while Napoli are one point behind but both have a game in hand over Francesco Guidolin`s team.
Rome: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to earn AC Milan a 2-1 win over Roma and send the rossoneri seven points clear at the top of Serie A.