Talk about a busy evening. Zlatan Ibrahimović generated plenty of headlines on Tuesday in the Milan derby — and then some.
From scoring to getting into a spat with a former teammate and then being sent off, the Swedish superstar did it all in AC Milan’s dramatic Coppa Italia defeat to cross-city rivals Inter Milan.
Ibrahimović’s first-half strike put the Italian league leaders in front, further continuing his excellent form against Inter, his eighth goal in seven appearances against the Nerazzurri, who the Swede played for between 2006 and 2009.
However, the 39-year-old’s turbulent evening was only just beginning.
As the two sides were heading off the field for the halftime break and with tensions rising, Ibrahimović and his former Manchester United teammate Lukaku came head-to-head as tempers flared.
They were seen on TV cameras — and heard, due to an empty San Siro — exchanging insults in English as Lukaku had to be restrained by his teammates as the Belgian international tried to confront the Swede for a second time.
Both players, who were teammates in 2017 in Manchester, were booked for their involvement in the spat, something which came back to haunt Ibrahimović.
Inter manager Antonio Conte said after the match that these combustible moments are typical of heated derbies.
“Derbies are like this, it was a heartfelt match,” Conte told Rai Sport.
“I haven’t spoken with Romelu yet, but I was a player so I know that during a match things can get heated. Situations can flare up but it’s only right that things then settle.
“I liked seeing Romelu so focused, he is growing in terms of his character. He plays an important role for us and if sometimes he gets angry, then we can only gain from it.”
Thirteen minutes after the half-time break, Ibrahimović was shown his second yellow card — and a ticket to an early shower — for a foul on former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov.
And with a man advantage, Inter capitalized against their long-time rivals.
Lukaku in fact was the man to bring the teams level, converting from the penalty spot after a foul from Rafael Leao on Nicolo Barella was eventually given by referee Paolo Valeri after consulting the pitch side monitor.
Now in the ascendency, Inter continued to pile on the pressure, but found stand-in Milan goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu an immovable object.
That was until, with extra time looming, Christian Eriksen curled in an exquisite free-kick in the dying moments of the game to snatch a dramatic victory and set up a semifinal clash against either Juventus or SPAL who play on Wednesday.
It was Eriksen’s first goal of the season — the Dane has started just four Serie A games so far — with rumors circulating that he could be on his way out of the club after only joining in January 2020.
However, Conte is adamant that Eriksen is going nowhere.
“As I’ve said for a month, this is our squad. With Christian, we’re working hard on making him a tactical alternative to (Marcelo) Brozović<' said the Inter manager.
“He has quality and he’s very intelligent from a footballing perspective. He is part of the project and I am pleased that he scored. I urged him to take the free-kick, he’s a bit shy but I hope this goal helps him.
“We all want him to do well because he’s a good lad, perhaps too good. We’re keeping a close eye on him as he is part of the group. We’ll all keep working hard right until the end, pleased that we’re here together.”