Milan recovered from conceding just two minutes into their Serie A title defence to beat Udinese 4-2 at San Siro on Saturday.
The opening game of the season in the Italian top flight for the Rossoneri saw a penalty from Theo Hernandez, two goals from Ante Rebic and another from Brahim Diaz guide them to three points, despite conceding twice to the visitors through Rodrigo Becao and Adam Masina.
New signings Charles de Ketelaere and Divock Origi were named on the bench for Stefano Pioli's side, with the former introduced for the final 20 minutes and the latter for the final seven in front of their new fans.
It was a losing start for new Udinese head coach Andrea Sottil, though he will have been buoyed by his team's ability to keep Milan honest in a game that was more open in the first half than Pioli would have liked.
It was far from an ideal start for the hosts as Udinese took the lead in just the second minute when Becao headed a Gerard Deulofeu corner in at the near post.
4 - AC Milan have scored at least 4 goals in the debut Serie A match of their season for the first time since August 2010 vs Lecce. This is only the second time for the Rossoneri in the current Century. Heat.#MilanUdinese pic.twitter.com/li1D4cLCUD— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) August 13, 2022
That advantage did not last long though as a VAR check led to a Milan penalty being awarded on 10 minutes after Brandon Soppy was judged to have fouled Davide Calabria, with Hernandez calmly dispatching the spot kick.
The champions were in front just four minutes later when neat play from Diaz gave Calabria the chance to cross to Rebic, who swept the ball past Marco Silvestri.
Deulofeu made a mess of a chance when in on goal, but Udinese were level just before half-time when two more former Watford players combined, with Roberto Pereyra crossing for Masina to head in at the far post.
If Milan made a slow start in the first half, Udinese managed to trump it in the second as Nehuen Pereza and Masina made a mess of a Hernandez cross from the left, allowing Diaz to prod the hosts back in front just 34 seconds after the restart.
Diaz had been a thorn in Udinese's side all game, and won the ball inside the opposition's box on 68 minutes before squaring to Rebic to lift his finish into the roof of the net to seal the win.
What does it mean? Rossoneri recover from early scare
The only time in the last 10 meetings between the teams that Milan have lost against Udinese came in the first game of the 2019-20 season, when a Rodrigo Becao goal gave Le Zebrette a 1-0 win.
It will therefore have been quite a concern for Milan when the same player gave the away side the lead in just the second minute, especially given the sloppy nature of the way it was conceded.
However, this Milan team is made of sterner stuff than they were three years ago, and they turned things around little more than 10 minutes later - then even responded to another setback after conceding again just before half-time.
Calabria shines and Diaz dazzles
Rebic may get the headlines for his brace, but Calabria and Diaz were the star turns, at the centre of everything good from Milan.
As well as getting an assist, Calabria topped his team's stats for key passes (two), total passes (76), total passes in the opposition half (37) and tackles (six) while putting nine crosses into the box, of which four were defined as "good crosses" by Opta.
Former Manchester City and Real Madrid youngster Diaz grabbed a goal and an assist, having also played a big role in the creation of Milan’s second goal.
Slow start does not cost Milan, yet
Prior to this game, Milan had conceded the fewest goals in 2022 (nine in 19 matches) across the big five European leagues, while also keeping the most clean sheets during this period (12).
However, sloppily conceding from a corner early on seemed to fluster them, and they should have conceded again before Udinese’s second goal did come just prior to the break.
The hosts had far more control in the second half but better teams could have punished them further, though a rusty start that still ends in a routine three points will do Pioli just fine.
Key Opta Facts
- Milan have scored at least four goals in the debut Serie A match of their season for the first time since August 2010 vs Lecce. This is only the second time for the Rossoneri in the current century.
- Udinese conceded at least four goals in their Serie A seasonal debut match for the fifth time in their history, the second in the last 40 years (the last 4-0 vs Roma in 2016).
- Diaz scored a goal in Serie A for the first time since September 25, 2021 vs Spezia: he netted five out of his eight goals in the top-flight between August and September.
- Rodrigo Becao's goal after one minute and 31 seconds was the fastest ever conceded by a reigning Italian champion in matchday 1 in Serie A.
- Rebic's first goal was his first in Serie A at San Siro in 482 days: the previous one before today was against Genoa in April 2021.
Milan travel to Atalanta next Sunday while Udinese host Salernitana next Saturday.