Zlatan Ibrahimovic apologised for the red card that cost Milan dearly in their Coppa Italia exit to rivals Inter, coach Stefano Pioli has revealed.

Ibrahimovic, who had scored his 499th club career goal to give Milan the lead, was sent off for a second bookable offence as he felled Aleksandar Kolarov just before the hour-mark.

Romelu Lukaku equalised from the penalty spot soon after and Christian Eriksen's stoppage-time free-kick settled a controversial Derby della Madonnina encounter.

Ibrahimovic had earned his first yellow card in a confrontation with former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku.

The two forwards went head-to-head in a heated exchange that saw Ibrahimovic aim offensive language in the direction of his opponent.

It was a major misstep and Milan paid the price for Ibrahimovic's ill-discipline, but the 39-year-old was apologetic, according to his coach.

"Ibrahimovic apologised. He knows he created a problem for the team," Pioli said. "He apologised because he is a great man and champion.

"It's clear that the game was more difficult one man down in a game so balanced. It has been crucial. It wasn't supposed to happen but it happened unfortunately.

"We felt the fatigue in the last 30 minutes and we didn't achieve a positive result.

"We wanted it and we prepared for it. Now we go back to the league and to Bologna."

Milan remain top of Serie A, two points ahead of second-placed Inter, as they aim to end a 10-year wait for the Scudetto.

Antonio Conte professed to be happy at the sight of Romelu Lukaku getting angry with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Inter's Coppa Italia win over Milan.

Inter ultimately triumphed 2-1 thanks to a late Christian Eriksen free-kick, but that does not tell the full story of the match, which Milan initially led thanks to Ibrahimovic.

The Swede was involved in an altercation with Lukaku just before half-time as the former Manchester United colleagues squared up to each other and went head-to-head – it then continued after the referee ended the first half, with Inter players forced to hold their team-mate back.

Television footage and audio appeared to show Ibrahimovic yelling at Lukaku: "Go do your voodoo s***."

That may have been a reference by Ibrahimovic to claims made by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri in January 2018 that Lukaku, who left the Merseyside club six months earlier, strenuously denied.

After Tuesday's game, Lukaku did not immediately publicly address Ibrahimovic's on-pitch behaviour.

Inter and Lukaku ultimately had the last laugh, as Ibrahimovic was sent off in the second half and the Belgian equalised from the spot before Eriksen sealed their spot in the semi-finals with a lovely free-kick.

"If he gets angry every now and then, it just makes me happy," Conte told RAI Sport after the game.

"I've been a player. It is a derby, not a walk for your health. During the game, tempers are high and in some situations you get angry. The important thing is that everything remains in the right dimension.

"I was pleased to see Romelu so focused. He had a disagreement with someone [Ibrahimovic] who has the wickedness of a winner and a warrior, he does not want to lose. Romelu is growing from this point of view. For us it is important."

"You want to speak about my mother?"

Romelu Lukaku was seething. A yellow card and a stern talking to from referee Paolo Valeri having done nothing to lift the red mist.

Inter's diminutive playmaker Nicolo Barella attaching himself to Lukaku's torso in a bid to calm the powerhouse striker was one of the more memorable sights of an action-packed first 45 minutes in this Milan derby for a place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

Or the Derby della Madonnina, to give the game its full, grander title. A game that takes its name from a pristine golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

It seemed for all the world that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had not spoken about Lukaku's mother with such reverence.

Here was Milan's 39-year-old talisman, who suggested the youthful make-up of the Serie A leaders' XI was a factor in their 3-0 weekend defeat to Atalanta, deciding to display his own brand of leadership in the guise of juvenile schoolyard bully.

Ibrahimovic's crowing chuckle as mayhem unfurled around him (Arturo Vidal got involved - of course he did - for no apparent reason) was one of a player who had recently enjoyed a familiar feeling for the 499th time in his career.

Freed from shackles of their knife-edge Scudetto battle, both teams played with freedom and the intent to land a psychological blow. The fact each team had the same idea appeared to irritate all concerned, but it made for great entertainment.

It is doubtful Antonio Conte would consider such a cavalier selection in league combat as he rolled out on Inter's left flank here. Ivan Perisic was at wing-back, paying as much attention as you'd expect to the part of his position lurking after the hyphen.

That increased the defensive burden on Aleksandar Kolarov on, a defender who has worn 11 for the bulk of his career. Kolarov's shirt number is a statement of particular intent.

Ibrahimovic showed he recognised that point of weakness in the 13th minute, when he leapt athletically to meet a Rafael Leao cross, knocking Perisic and Kolarov to the ground in the process. Brahim Diaz was just unable to turn home.

Kolarov still seemed distracted when he backed off enough for the former Sweden international to fire though his legs and beyond Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

The script seemed written, goal 500 was surely on the way to take Ibrahimovic closer to yet another piece of silverware. Why not have some fun and wind up the opposition's star man.

Ibrahimovic's language and his message seemed appalling, with ESPN footage showing him at one point appearing to yell: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

A flaw in the plan to rile Lukaku was the yellow card that Ibrahimovic received for his part in the spat. Not a problem in itself, but in the 58th minute he clumsily and needlessly fouled Kolarov to collect a second booking.

Displaying none of his vast experience, Ibrahimovic had gone from hero to villain to idiot within half an hour of playing time.

And so, it was over to the youngsters and backup players who the star striker sometimes seems to consider walk-on extras in his one-man show.

First there was on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori, who was quickly disabused of the notion he had escaped chaos by leaving Chelsea this week. Thrust into a debut by Simon Kjaer's first-half injury, he made a brilliant last-ditch block to deny Lukaku.

Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez defended heroically down the Milan left but reduced numbers forced willing attacking players back to man unfamiliar barricades. Leao was pressed into action and brought down Barella. After consulting the pitchside monitor Valeri pointed to the spot.

Lukaku has been known to roll his penalties home. On this occasion, he tested the structural integrity of the crossbar and the ball ricocheted into the turf and home. Then there was a shouting match with a team-mate (Yes, Vidal; nope, no idea).

Enough mayhem? Nonsense. Valeri had to limp out of the action injured. Fourth official Daniele Chiffi looked like he was putting on the microphone and headset for the first time in his life and 10 minutes of stoppage time were required.

In the seventh of those, wantaway midfielder Christian Eriksen curled home a sumptuous free-kick, leaving Ciprian Tatarusanu no chance to add to his fine catalogue of eight saves.

Last act for Eriksen? Maybe. Definitely last laugh for Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic likes to call himself a lion but Tatarusanu and the Milan players he left behind were the lions here, roaring defiantly at wave after wave of Inter attacks before buckling at the last. Nine of Inter's 27 shots were blocked.

After fatefully dwelling too long in self-parody at the end of the first half, Ibrahimovic owes them an apology, and surely Lukaku is also due one. Perhaps they shouldn't hold their breath.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic went from hero to villain in Tuesday's Coppa Italia quarter-final defeat to rivals Inter as he was involved in an ugly incident with Romelu Lukaku and later sent off in a 2-1 reverse sealed at the death by Christian Eriksen.

Swedish striker Ibrahimovic went into the match just two short of a 500th career club goal and few would have bet against him reaching the milestone in the derby after putting Milan in front, but he was unable to see out a controversial encounter.

Having earned a first yellow card in an earlier altercation with Lukaku, who was clearly incensed by the 39-year-old's behaviour, Ibrahimovic was perhaps unfortunate to earn a second booking for what referee Paolo Valeri deemed a foul on Aleksandar Kolarov.

If Lukaku's mood was not already improved by Ibrahimovic's dismissal, he was definitely smiling after converting a 71st-minute penalty, and Eriksen's gorgeous late free-kick sealed Inter a spot in the semi-finals.

Ever the man for the big occasion, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be eyeing a looming landmark heading into Tuesday's Coppa Italia Derby della Madonnina.

Ibrahimovic enters the latest crunch clash between Inter and his Milan just two goals shy of 500 in club football.

The former Sweden striker drew a blank against Atalanta on Saturday, ending a run of scoring in nine consecutive Serie A starts, but will be determined to bounce back in this mammoth fixture.

"We have to redeem ourselves after this defeat," Ibrahimovic said after the 3-0 loss to Atalanta. "We have the chance to do it in a few days against Inter. That will be a good match."

A MILAN MAN

Enjoying a fine second spell with Milan now at the age of 39, Ibrahimovic's goals have fired Stefano Pioli's side back into title contention - despite the Atalanta setback.

The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011 - in Ibrahimovic's first stint at the club - and are without any silverware since the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana.

Inter's own trophy drought spans back to 2011, making this season - with the Milan clubs first and second in the table - and this quarter-final encounter huge.

Ibrahimovic has 13 goals in all competitions this term, including 12 in the league, swelling his Milan total to 80.

That far surpasses the 66 he scored in his time with Inter, while his total number of appearances for the Rossoneri has also nudged past his Nerazzurri tally, 119 to 117 after the Atalanta reverse.

Ibrahimovic will hope to be able to celebrate a 69th victory in Milan colours when they face their neighbours.

DERBY DELIGHTS

Derbies tend to be enjoyable occasions for Ibrahimovic, who has scored seven times for Milan against Inter - including a strike in his only prior such match outside of Serie A, inspiring a turnaround in the 2011 Supercoppa.

A goal and an assist in the first meeting with Inter following his return to Milan last year were in vain as the Nerazzurri won 4-2, but his brace this season secured a 2-1 win for the Serie A leaders.

Only once, in a 1-0 defeat in 2012, has Ibrahimovic failed to score for Milan against Inter, while he also netted twice in four matches for Juventus in the Derby d'Italia.

Yet the striker's Milan derby history goes back to before his arrival at the Rossoneri due to his previous allegiance to Inter.

He scored in his first two Inter appearances against Milan, meaning he has nine strikes in this famous rivalry - trailing only Andriy Shevchenko (14), Giuseppe Meazza (13), Gunnar Nordahl, Istvan Nyers (both 11) and Enrico Candiani (10).

Ibrahimovic has won six and lost four of his 10 Serie A derbies, also triumphing in that Supercoppa clash.

Former Milan midfielder and head coach Cristian Brocchi is hopeful the Rossoneri can maintain their charge for a drought-ending Serie A title as they vie for domestic silverware with neighbours Inter.

Milan have not won the Scudetto since 2011, but the Italian giants top the table at the halfway stage of the season – two points clear of Inter despite a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Atalanta.

Following years of pain, Stefano Pioli's Milan and their fans are daring to dream as they rise to the summit of Italian football once again.

Monza head coach Brocchi was part of the successful Milan era between 2001 and 2008, after a brief spell with city rivals Inter, winning two Champions League titles, the Scudetto, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

While Brocchi attempts to lead Monza from Serie B to the top flight this season, the 44-year-old's heart still beats for boyhood club Milan as they prepare for Tuesday's blockbuster Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter.

Brocchi, who oversaw seven matches in charge of Milan before being replaced by Vincenzo Montella in 2016, told Stats Perform News: "Milan are a family for me.

"I arrived there at nine, was in the all the youth ranks. I won everything with Milan and when I quit I managed to be Milan's coach for a short period. I will never feel colder toward Milan.

"I root for them, watch every game and hopefully, as they are doing great, they can go on down this path."

Milan have already beaten Inter in 2020-21 – a three-minute brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the Rossoneri past the Nerazzurri 2-1 in October's Serie A showdown.

The two teams will meet again at San Siro, where a Coppa Italia semi-final berth is on the line amid an intriguing title race, with nine-time reigning champions Juventus, Roma, Atalanta and Napoli also vying for honours.

Brocchi is no stranger to the Derby della Madonnina, having also experienced the build-up from the opposing side during his stint with Inter in 2000-01.

"First of all, I think the most beautiful derby ever played was the one in the Champions League semi-final in 2003 [Milan prevailed on away goals after a 1-1 draw]. It was the ultimate derby for adrenaline and all the feelings you can feel," Brocchi said ahead of Monday's Serie B showdown with Brescia.

"The Milan derby is emotional, everybody wants to win and even if now it will be played without public, it still gives us great feelings."

All eyes will be on Ibrahimovic in Milan, where the 39-year-old continues to defy his age to inspire a title charge this term.

Ibrahimovic, who re-joined Milan from LA Galaxy in January 2020 having featured in the last Rossoneri team to celebrate league success almost a decade ago, has scored 12 goals in just nine Serie A matches this season.

After scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Cagliari on January 18, it meant Ibrahimovic managed to find the back of the net in nine successive starts for the first time in his career in Europe's top five leagues.

Ibrahimovic – who made his 600th career appearance (excluding playoffs) in the loss to Atalanta – is just two goals shy of reaching the 500 mark in club football.

"Strong players have no age as long as they feel fine. Ibra is an example, he is still strong physically," Brocchi continued.

"He is serving with character and class all the young player at Milan, who as I said before for us [Monza] with [Mario] Balotelli and [Kevin-Prince] Boateng. We have young players that can run for them too.

"Milan did the same. They assembled a squad of youngsters full of enthusiasm, legs and speed with a strong leader, Ibra, who is still at the top of his game and can be the icing on the cake of this winning choice." 

Stefano Pioli said Zlatan Ibrahimovic exceeded expectations with his brace in Milan's 2-0 win over Cagliari on Monday.

Ibrahimovic scored a brace as Milan moved three points clear of rivals Inter atop Serie A.

The 39-year-old has found the net in nine successive starts for the first time in his career in Europe's top five leagues as he moved onto 12 Serie A goals in eight games this season.

Milan coach Pioli said Ibrahimovic performed above expectations, with his side closing out a win despite Alexis Saelemaekers' 74th-minute red card.

"Ibrahimovic is a champion in everything he does. Of course, now that he is back, we have more options and qualities," he told a news conference.

"The more choices and strong players we have, the more likely we are to win games.

"He still surprises me, but now I know him so well. We always expect him to give the maximum, and today he exceeded our expectations."

Ibrahimovic had the most shots (five) and shots on target (three) against Cagliari, while no player was involved in more duels (17).

Milan extended their unbeaten run away from home in Serie A to 16 matches, which equals their most in the three-points-per-win era (since 1994-95).

"We are happy with today's performance. It wasn't easy to play on such a difficult pitch like this one, facing an opponent with great qualities," Pioli said.

"We deserved the victory and now we will start focusing on the next important game on Saturday against Atalanta."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Mario Mandzukic will "scare" opponents like he does, with Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori also poised to join Serie A leaders Milan.

Ibrahimovic restored the Rossoneri's three-point lead over rivals Inter at the summit with both goals in Monday's 2-0 win at Cagliari.

And Milan are not resting on a position of strength, with their veteran top scorer under the impression a deal to bring in former Bayern Munich and Juventus forward Mandzukic on a free transfer is already done.

"Mario Mandzukic has signed his contract, he's joining AC Milan," Ibrahimovic told Sky Sport Italia.

"I'm happy we have two that scare our opponents."

Youth is set to join experience, with 23-year-old Chelsea defender Tomori on the verge of a loan switch to San Siro as he seeks regular first-team opportunities.

"We wanted Fikayo Tomori also last summer, he's always been one of our targets," Milan technical director Paolo Maldini said.

"He's perfect for our squad. We're working on the last details."

Ibrahimovic addressed Maldini directly after the game, saying a renewal of his own contract at Milan depended on his former team-mate.

The 39-year-old once again displayed evergreen form on his first league start since the end of November in Serie A, taking his tally to 12 goals in just eight Serie A appearances this term.

"Young people motivate me, they challenge me to see who runs more, I don't give up and show that I can run like them," he said.

“We are doing well, we are almost halfway through the season.

"Now the most difficult games are starting. It will be a very tough schedule, but with Mandzukic, [Monday debutant Soualiho] Meite, I don't know if more will arrive … more players available for the coach, they can help."

Asked whether he believed Milan could end Juventus' long reign as champions of Italy, Ibrahimovic inimitably replied: "I believe in me, in Zlatan."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to Milan's Serie A starting line-up with both goals in a 2-0 win at Cagliari that restored their three-point lead over Inter at the summit.

Antonio Conte's side pulled level with the Rossoneri thanks to their impressive victory over champions Juventus in Sunday's Derby d'Italia.

But Ibrahimovic is inspiring Milan's title bid with a prolific fervour and marked his first league start since November in style.

A seventh-minute penalty and a crisp half-volley early in the second period took the 39-year-old's tally to a remarkable 12 goals in just eight Serie A appearances this term.

Milan finished with 10 men as substitute Alexis Saelemaekers ludicrously collected two bookings within eight minutes of his 66th-minute introduction but fourth-bottom Cagliari could not avert a fifth straight Serie A loss.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to go through the gears as he attempts to steer Milan to their first Scudetto in a decade.

Ten goals in seven games from Ibrahimovic, at a rate of one every 53.4 minutes, has been a vital spur in the first half of the season that has taken the Rossoneri to the Serie A summit.

"Today I feel like a leader. I drive, the team follows me," the 39-year-old striker told Corriere dello Sport.

Fit again after a seven-week injury lay-off, Milan head coach Stefano Pioli will hope Ibrahimovic can resume leading the attacking line with his familiar panache as the season nears its halfway mark.

A scintillating start to the campaign will count for little if Milan tail off over the coming months, which Ibrahimovic acknowledged when he considered the prospect of earning a place in next season's Champions League.

Inter and Juventus appear to be the biggest threats to Milan's lead, which stands at three points after 17 games. Milan are next in action when they face Cagliari on Monday.

"It is early. How much is still to go? All the second half of the season plus two games," Ibrahimovic said.

"Furthermore, setting goals is like setting limits. I never do it. Second place is the first of the last. I want to get the best out of me and the team, every day, including training."

The former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain frontman is enjoying a second stint with Milan, after a fruitful first spell from 2010 to 2012, when he featured in that 2010-11 title-winning team.

"Ten years ago it was another Milan. But also the Milan that I found in 2020 was different. Always a very young team. We have worked, we sacrificed ourselves. Here are the results," said Ibrahimovic.

"We are doing great things, it is true, as it is true that we have not won anything. There is the desire to do more."

Stefano Pioli was glad to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic get another 45 minutes under his belt in Milan's penalty shoot-out win over Torino.

Ibrahimovic, 39, made his return from injury off the bench against the same opponent in Serie A on Saturday, but started and played 45 minutes three days later as Milan reached the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory.

Milan head coach Pioli was happy to see the forward, who has scored 10 goals in seven Serie A matches this season, get more game time after being out for seven weeks.

"We wanted to give him a longer time compared to the previous championship game. We preferred to let him play from the beginning due to his characteristics," he said, via Sky Sport.

"This time will be used to improve his condition in view of the next championship match."

The clash at San Siro finished 0-0 before Hakan Calhanoglu scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after Ciprian Tatarusanu had denied Tomas Rincon.

It meant Milan reached the Coppa Italia quarter-finals for the 12th consecutive season.

"I am lucky to have a team that knows how to fight, knows how to play, knows how to grit its teeth in a difficult match even for the qualities of our opponents," Pioli said.

"For the many occasions we had, we could have avoided even reaching penalties, but we went beyond physical and mental fatigue and this is a desired qualification."

Milan, who are three points clear atop the Serie A table, visit Cagliari on Monday.

Dejan Kulusevski urged evergreen Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come out of retirement and play for Sweden at this year's rearranged Euro 2020.

Ibrahimovic has not represented Sweden in more than four years after retiring from international football following Euro 2016.

The 39-year-old forward – Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 62 goals in 116 appearances – has hinted he is ready to end his international retirement ahead of the European Championship as he continues to light up Serie A with Milan.

Sweden international and Juventus attacker Kulusevski talked up an Ibrahimovic comeback following Sunday's 3-1 win over 10-man Sassuolo.

"We write to each other. He is an idol for me, as hardly anyone in the world can do what he does," Kulusevski told Sky Sport Italia of Ibrahimovic, who has scored 10 league goals this season and 11 across all competitions for Serie A-leading Milan.

"When he speaks highly of me, it makes me work even harder the next day in training, because I am so proud.

"I really hope he returns for international duty with Sweden at the Euros. It would be wonderful for me and all of Sweden. Come on, Ibra!"

Juventus recorded their third consecutive league win for the first time since July after overcoming visiting Sassuolo in Turin.

Goals from Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo kept fourth-placed Juve in touch with Milan, after Sassuolo's Pedro Obiang was sent off prior to half-time – the defending champions are seven points adrift.

Ronaldo completed the scoring at the death as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner made it 15-plus goals in 15 different seasons in the top five European leagues.

Juve also conceded a goal in a Serie A home game while playing with a numerical advantage for the first time since October 2013 against Milan after Gregoire Defrel cancelled out Danilo's 50th-minute opener 13 minutes into the second half.

Kulusevski came off the bench to replace the injured Paulo Dybala before the interval and he added: "I had just one thing in my mind when I came on, which was to win the game. I could've done much better, but I am glad we got the points.

"I see myself at Juventus for many years. I see myself closer to the goal, where I can do a quick one-two with my team-mates. I enjoyed where I played this evening."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic can make the difference for Milan in the Serie A title race after returning from injury, according to team-mate Brahim Diaz.

Ibrahimovic scored 10 goals in six league games to help the Rossoneri make a fast start to the 2020-21 season, but injuries have hampered him since late November.

Milan have continued to prosper without the talismanic striker, yet Diaz believes the Swede can now play a pivotal role - and not just on the pitch - after making his comeback on Saturday.

The 39-year-old came off the bench in the closing stages of a 2-0 win over Torino, Stefano Pioli's side bouncing back impressively after Juventus had put an end to their unbeaten record in midweek.

"Ibrahimovic is a player who makes the difference," Diaz said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia.

“He transfers his great experience to us. Now that he is back, we will do great things.

"He has a winning mentality and forces you to always give your best, he wants the best of ourselves every day."

Diaz made his eighth league start of the campaign against Torino, playing a pivotal role in helping his team claim three points.

The Spaniard set up Rafael Leao for the home side's opening goal, then won the penalty that allowed Franck Kessie to double the advantage before half-time.

The victory moved Milan four points clear at the summit and with nearest rivals Inter only able to draw on Sunday, hopes are high they can be crowned champions of Italy for the first time in a decade.

"We are Milan, this word is enough to understand that we always want to win, then we'll see," said Diaz, who is on loan from Real Madrid.

"We can dream. We are a very united group and we want to do great things together. The best is yet to come, we are all fine and also I feel great.

"I am happy for the penalty which I won, for the assist and for the three points against Torino. If we continue like this, little by little we will be able to do more and more."

Stefano Pioli had no doubt Milan would produce an instant response to their setback against Juventus, though he was again left counting the cost of injuries and suspension following the win over Torino. 

Serie A leaders Milan saw their unbeaten league start come to an end in a 3-1 reverse in midweek, a game that saw Davide Calabria have to deputise in midfield. 

However, the Rossoneri continued their title tilt with a 2-0 triumph over Torino thanks to first-half goals from Rafael Leao and Franck Kessie. 

"I must admit, I was not at all surprised by this performance," Pioli told DAZN. 

"I know these lads and expected them to give this kind of a response. The first half was excellent, particularly in terms of quality, and we inevitably came under pressure during the second half against a Torino side in good form."

However, Leao will miss Milan's next game through suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while Sandro Tonali left the game on a stretcher and Brahim Diaz picked up a knock. 

"We don’t have any news yet, we'll have to see, they both got nasty knocks," Pioli added of the injured duo. 

"What does disappoint me is losing Leao for the next game, because I've never seen a player booked for simulation in midfield. I don't think that was in any way fair or a real understanding of the situation." 

There was some positive news as Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his comeback from a calf injury late off the bench having been expected to play no part. 

"We knew that if he passed the final test tomorrow in training, he'd be ready for a small portion of the game," Pioli said. 

"The muscular injury is behind him now, we will see what to do in the Coppa Italia. Zlatan is unique, we hope to have him in full shape as quickly as possible."

Milan bounced back from their midweek defeat to Juventus by overcoming Torino 2-0 at San Siro to take a four-point lead at the top of Serie A. 

Stefano Pioli's team suffered their first loss of the season last time out but produced a response worthy of champions, turning in an accomplished display on Saturday. 

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic making a return off the bench following his recovery from injury, Rafael Leao opened the scoring before Franck Kessie's penalty made it 2-0. 

Torino had a penalty of their own overturned in the second half but Andrea Belotti's poor header to end a rare attack summed up a disappointing performance, meaning their long wait for a league win at Milan goes on.

The hosts managed four attempts by the 17th minute and their dominance told when Theo Hernandez found Brahim Diaz, whose slick first-time pass played in Leao to dispatch a finish which the watching Ibrahimovic would have been proud of.

Torino's frustration was compounded seven minutes later when Diaz drew a hefty, last-ditch tackle from Belotti.

Referee Fabio Maresca pointed to the spot and despite checking with VAR, found no reason to change his decision. Kessie calmly sent Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way.

The crossbar prevented Ricardo Rodriguez pulling one back against his former club with a superb free-kick – Torino's first shot – while Sirigu made a brilliant stop to deny Kessie on the stroke of half-time.

Torino thought they had a lifeline when Simone Verdi went down under pressure from Sandro Tonali but, after initially giving the penalty, referee Maresca overturned his decision following a check. Tonali came off worse from the collision too, the former Brescia midfielder having to be taken off on a stretcher.

Belotti wasted his first sight of goal by heading tamely at Gianluigi Donnarumma, who pulled off a fantastic 90th-minute stop to keep out Jacopo Segre's deflected attempt to stem any danger of a late Torino comeback.

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