Ibrahimović matches Ronaldo as Milan beats Venezia

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, and Venezia's Pietro Ceccaroni battle for the ball during the Serie A match between Venezia and AC Milan at Penzo stadium, Venice, Italy, Sunday Jan. 9, 2022. (AP)

MILAN – Zlatan Ibrahimović matched a mark set by Cristiano Ronaldo, and Theo Hernandez scored twice, as depleted AC Milan won 3-0 at 10-man Venezia to move top of Serie A on Sunday.

Ibrahimović opened the scoring with barely two minutes on the clock. It was the 80th team the veteran forward has scored against in the top five European leagues. Ibrahimović and Ronaldo – who did so against Burnley on Dec. 30 – are the only players to reach that milestone since 2000.

Venezia put up a spirited defense but the match changed early in the second half as the home side swiftly went from 1-0 down to 3-0 down and with a player sent off after defender Michael Svoboda was shown a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The Rossoneri moved two points above Inter Milan, which hosts Lazio later in a game that pits Inter coach Simone Inzaghi against the team he formerly managed and played for. Lazio was the only team the defending champion lost to in the first half of the season.

Roma was also playing Juventus later.

Milan had won its opening match of the year 3-1 against Roma but was still without more than 10 players due to coronavirus, injuries and African Cup of Nations duty.

However, it got off to the perfect start when Rafael Leão cut inside from the left and rolled across for Ibrahimović to tuck in from point-blank range.

Milan threatened to double its lead several times but had to wait until the start of the second half to do so thanks to another assist from Le?o, who threaded the ball through for Hernandez to burst down the left and cut inside before blasting past Sergio Romero.

And any hope Venezia had of getting back into the match was all but gone by the 58th minute when Svoboda was sent off for blocking a Hernandez shot on the line with his arm.

Hernandez, who was wearing the captain's armband, sent the resulting penalty into the top right corner.

VIRUS-HIT UDINESE

Atalanta started 2022 in emphatic fashion as it won 6-2 at COVID-hit Udinese.

It was Atalanta's first match of the new year after Thursday's home match against Torino was postponed because of a number of coronavirus cases in the visiting squad.

Udinese had 12 players out with COVID-19 but the match went ahead and Atalanta was 3-0 up by halftime following goals from Mario Pa?ali?, Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi. Muriel added a second after the break and Joakim M?hle also netted his first goal for Atalanta, three minutes before Matteo Pessina's stoppage-time effort.

Atalanta remained fourth, two points behind Napoli but having played a match less.

Napoli beat Sampdoria 1-0 thanks to an acrobatic, first-half goal from Andrea Petagna.

Also, Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca scored two apiece as Sassuolo won 5-1 at 10-man Empoli.

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