Leonardo Bonucci scored two penalties as Juventus beat Lazio 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday and insists that it does not matter where the goals come from as long as the Bianconeri win.

The centre-back's brace means he is now Juventus' joint-top scorer in Serie A this term, joining Paulo Dybala on three league goals for the season, and has the highest expected goals total in the squad (4.04).

It is indicative of the Bianconeri's struggles to score that the 34-year-old defender ranks so highly in those metrics, managing just 18 Serie A goals as a team so far - only good enough for joint-10th in the division.

Bonucci is unconcerned with where his side's goals come from, however, with Juventus desperate for a run of good results to lift them from seventh in the league.

"We must give our all to take Juventus back to battling for every objective," Bonucci said to DAZN. "We created a few important situations today with the strikers, such as Alvaro Morata in the first half and Moise Kean in the second.

"The important thing is to bring home the three points, it doesn’t matter who gets the goals. I believe we will bring home better results with more determination and self-belief as the season goes on.

"When you are Juve and have the start to the season we did, criticism is natural and we need to take that, but we saw that with the right spirit, we can make the difference.

"It was a fundamental victory, as it's always tough after the break for international duty. We know with this spirit of sacrifice, the games depend on us. We really did well to limit Lazio, allow them nothing and score two goals of our own."

Bonucci's success from the spot prompted questions as to why he was not on penalty duty for Italy, with Jorginho sending the ball over the bar in the 90th minute of a 1-1 draw with Switzerland on November 12 that contributed to the European champions' slide into the World Cup qualifying play-offs.

"A week ago, Jorginho was the penalty specialist and it was only right that he take it," Bonucci continued. "If I had been asked to take the penalty, it would not have been a problem."

Juventus travel to London to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League on Tuesday before hosting Atalanta the following Saturday.

Juventus eased to a 2-0 win against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to move up to sixth place in Serie A.

A Leonardo Bonucci penalty in each half proved enough for Massimiliano Allegri's side, making it back-to-back wins in the league after they beat Fiorentina 1-0 before the international break.

Lazio were without star striker Ciro Immobile and it showed as the Biancocelesti struggled to create much in the way of chances.

Maurizio Sarri would have been hoping to do better against his former club, with his team now having won just twice in their last seven games in all competitions.

Danilo was forced off with an injury for the visitors after 15 minutes following a strong challenge from Elseid Hysaj, with Dejan Kulusevski replacing the Brazilian.

Juventus had their first penalty in the 22nd minute after Danilo Cataldi was judged to have fouled Alvaro Morata in the box following a VAR review, which Bonucci coolly dispatched past Pepe Reina.

Morata should have made it two just before half-time when Juan Cuadrado lifted a delicate ball into the box, only for the Spain striker's scissor-kick to fly over the bar.

Juve had their second penalty with ten minutes to go after Federico Chiesa rounded Reina, only to be hacked down by the goalkeeper before he could score, and Bonucci made no mistake to seal the win.


What does it mean? Juve back on track

Shortly before the international break there was slight talk of crisis at Juventus. Back-to-back defeats against Sassuolo and Verona saw the Old Lady sitting in ninth place, 16 points off the top of the table.

After victory here, they are temporarily at least up to sixth and have cut Napoli and Milan's lead at the top to 11 points, albeit with both still yet to play this weekend.

They will hope to build on three wins in a row in all competitions when they travel to Chelsea for matchday five of the Champions League in midweek, where a win will confirm them as winners of Group H.

Better week for Bonucci

Bonucci and the rest of his Italian team-mates had an international break to forget, with draws against Switzerland and Northern Ireland meaning that the Azzurri must now go through the play-offs if they are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

However, Bonucci's penalties against Lazio not only won the game, but also mean he has scored more Serie A goals than any other defender since the beginning of the last decade (27).

Lazio lack mobility without Immobile

Immobile is one of only four players already with at least 10 goals in the big five European leagues this season, along with Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah.

Lazio unsurprisingly missed their talisman here, with only one of their eight shots at goal hitting the target.

What's next?

Lazio face Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia in the Europa League on Thursday, while Juventus travel to Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Massimiliano Allegri is convinced Italy will make it to the World Cup – but that is the least of his worries as he looks to guide Juventus back into the Scudetto picture.

Juve head coach Allegri takes his side to Lazio on Saturday for what already feels like a highly important game in the context of the season.

Defeats to Sassuolo and Hellas Verona in late October look to have almost scrubbed Juve out of the title frame, and they sit eighth heading into the weekend, already 14 points behind Napoli and Milan. It will take a sharp upturn for them to trouble the early pace-setters.

Lazio are three points better off than Juventus too, and their boss is former Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri, the man who was given the flick by the Turin giants in August 2020 after just one season.

Sarri won the Serie A title in that campaign, but a lack of European success cost him dearly. His successor, Andrea Pirlo, delivered neither, which is why Allegri was summoned to return to the Allianz Stadium top job, having won five league championships in his previous stint.

Italy is consumed by the travails of the Azzurri, with Roberto Mancini's team falling to Earth with a bump after their Euro 2020 success as they failed to earn automatic qualification for the World Cup, with Jorginho's costly missed penalty against Switzerland followed by a draw with Northern Ireland.

They still have a play-off to fall back on, so may well still feature at Qatar 2022, and Allegri spoke about Italy while addressing the focus on putting points on the board.

"Football is good because you can have opinions, you can talk, but in the end it all boils down to the results," he told a news conference on Friday.

"For a missed penalty, they've been massacring them for a week now. We need balance, there are unforeseen events that must be managed, and I believe that in the end they will go to the World Cup."

He is waiting to learn whether Paulo Dybala is available for the trip to Rome, with the Argentine keen to be involved after international duty. Allegri described the forward's calf as "problematic" but did not rule him out.

"It's a nice challenge, two teams that are floating on the edge of fourth place," Allegri said. "It will be a difficult match."

A sketchy 1-0 victory over Fiorentina, secured by Juan Cuadrado's stoppage-time goal after their visitors were reduced to 10 men, sent Juventus into the international break with a win.

 

"Right now, here you just have to do and not think. We are behind in the standings, talking is of no use at all," Allegri added.

"We just have to think about what to do to try slowly to improve in the attacking and defensive phases, as well as in the standings."

Juve have lost only two of their last 33 Serie A games against Lazio, both since 2017 (W24 D7).

Lazio have conceded at least once in their last 16 Serie A home games against the Bianconceri, their longest streak without a clean sheet at home against a single opponent in the top flight.

Sarri has previously spoken of his difficulty in bringing new elements to Juventus' play during his short tenure, but Allegri feels the current crop are malleable enough.

"Maurizio is an excellent coach and here he won a championship," Allegri said. "You'd have to ask him, he said it and not me. For me the teams are all trainable, it depends on the players you have."

Paul Pogba's future continues to make headlines.

With his contract expiring, it remains to be seen whether he will remain at Manchester United.

United are believed to be ready to move on as Real Madrid lurk.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID READY TO POUNCE FOR POGBA

Manchester United have given up on keeping Pogba and Real Madrid have a "great opportunity" to sign the Frenchman, according to the front page of Thursday's Marca.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and the United star is no closer to a renewal at Old Trafford.

Madrid are continuing to circle Pogba, who has also been linked with former club Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Sport claims Barca are eyeing moves for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman. Out-of-favour Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo have also been linked.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his contract at Milan until 2023, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Chelsea are interested in signing Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana, says Foot Mercato. The 20-year-old is yet to play this season due to a serious leg injury.

- El Nacional reports Madrid and Chelsea will go head-to-head to land Monaco star Aurelien Tchouameni. The France international is also reportedly wanted by Juve, City, United, Liverpool, Bayern and Newcastle United.

Newcastle are eyeing Inter duo Stefan de Vrij and Marcelo Brozovic and Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, per The Times.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has called up Atalanta's Matteo Pessina and Lazio midfielder Danilo Cataldi to his latest squad after losing Roma duo Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo to injury.

The European champions face Switzerland and Northern Ireland in their final two qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup and currently sit top of Group C on goal difference, level on 14 points with the Swiss ahead of their crucial encounter in Rome on Friday.

Mancini, who is already without Marco Verratti due to a hip injury, confirmed earlier on Monday at a media conference that Pellegrini (knee) and Zaniolo (calf) will return to their club.

"Zaniolo was a bit unlucky because he suffered two serious injuries. He is young and he has the qualities to get over it," he said.

"It could have been an important game for him, but he has a problem and we can't take any risk. I don't think he needs my advice, he has the quality and he can improve in everything.

"We will surely replace them [Pellegrini and Zaniolo] because we also need to assess [Nicolo] Barella. We didn't call Pessina because he is not ready."

Despite this, Mancini ultimately did decide to turn to Pessina, as well as Cataldi, who receives his first senior call-up since 2017 after a solid start to the season at Lazio.

The former Manchester City manager did have better news about his defence, with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci appearing to be fit to play despite missing Juventus' 1-0 win against Fiorentina at the weekend.

"They feel well, we have a training session today. We'll see how everyone feels." 

Can Cataldi step up for the Azzurri?

While Mancini is suffering from something of a midfield crisis, having players with the quality of Pessina and Cataldi to call on is not a bad problem to have.

It may be the first call-up for Cataldi in over four years, but he has achieved it off the back of some eye-catching performances at club level for Maurizio Sarri's men.

When measured against Pellegrini, whose role he will fill, Cataldi leads the way in pass success percentage (91.2), albeit the 27-year-old has only started four of his 10 league appearances, while the Roma captain has started 11.

Cataldi also has a superior pass completion rate in the opposition half, with 84.7 per cent compared to Pellegrini's 79.7, so his numbers do not appear to be indicative of him only playing easy passes.

Whether Cataldi gets an opportunity to win only his second cap remains to be seen, but he has clearly caught the eye of Mancini at least.

Ciro Immobile became the all-time leading goalscorer in Lazio's history after finding the net in their 2-2 draw with Marseille on Thursday. 

Italy international Immobile overtook Silvio Piola by netting his 160th goal in all competitions for the club in the second half of the Europa League clash at the Stade Velodrome. 

The striker pounced on an error from William Saliba and curled a fine finish beyond Pau Lopez in the 49th minute, though Dimitri Payet's late intervention ensured it was not the winner. 

Immobile joined Lazio in 2016 and reached the milestone in his 233rd appearance for the club, with the majority of his goals being scored with his right foot (125). 

More than a quarter (44) have come from the penalty spot, while he has only found the back of the net from outside the box eight times.

Immobile's favourite opponent in a Lazio shirt has been Sampdoria, against whom he has scored 10 times in nine games. He has also hit nine against Cagliari, Genoa and SPAL, with his tally against the latter coming from just six games. 

Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic is winning plenty of admirers.

The 21-year-old Serbian has netted 10 times in 12 appearances at club level this season.

Vlahovic is currently under contract until June 23, although La Viola want him to sign an extension.

TOP STORY – PSG TO ENTER VLAHOVIC RACE

Paris Saint-Germain will enter the race to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, claims Le10Sports.

The Parisians are lining up the Serbian striker as a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe should he exit the club when his contract expires at the end of this season, with Real Madrid circling.

Hot property Vlahovic is being pursued by JuventusLiverpool and Tottenham.

ROUND-UP

- Unai Emery will not be the first permanent manager in Newcastle United's new era, BBC Sport journalist and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague understands. The Basque coach is set to stay at Villarreal for now, though his job there is under threat amid a poor start to 2021-22.

- The Sun reports Antonio Conte's arrival at Tottenham has seen Harry Kane abandon any plans he had to quit the club. Kane apparently wished to join Manchester City during the most recent transfer window.

- New Spurs boss Conte wants to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, according to Metro. Conte also has Inter defender Stefan de Vrij in his sights, claims Football Insider.

Milan are in the race to sign talented River Plate star Julian Alvarez in the off-season, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Fiorentina have also shown interest in 21-year-old Alvarez, who has four caps for Argentina.

Norwich City are considering a move to replace embattled manager Daniel Farke with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, claims the Daily Mail. The Canaries have only two points from 10 games following their return to the Premier League. Howe has also been linked with the vacant Newcastle job.

Newcastle want to make Inter's Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic their first major signing in January, says The Sun. Brozovic is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lazio are looking to convince Luiz Felipe to ink a new deal with the club amid interest from BarcelonaSevilla and Real Betis, reports CalcioMercato. The Brazilian centre-back's contract expires at the end of this season.

Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic is winning plenty of admirers.

The 21-year-old Serbian has netted 10 times in 12 appearances at club level this season.

Vlahovic is currently under contract until June 23, although La Viola want him to sign an extension.

TOP STORY – PSG TO ENTER VLAHOVIC RACE

Paris Saint-Germain will enter the race to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, claims Le10Sports.

The Parisians are lining up the Serbian striker as a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe should he exit the club when his contract expires at the end of this season, with Real Madrid circling.

Hot property Vlahovic is being pursued by JuventusLiverpool and Tottenham.

ROUND-UP

- Unai Emery will not be the first permanent manager in Newcastle United's new era, BBC Sport journalist and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague understands. The Basque coach is set to stay at Villarreal for now, though his job there is under threat amid a poor start to 2021-22.

- The Sun reports Antonio Conte's arrival at Tottenham has seen Harry Kane abandon any plans he had to quit the club. Kane apparently wished to join Manchester City during the most recent transfer window.

- New Spurs boss Conte wants to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, according to Metro. Conte also has Inter defender Stefan de Vrij in his sights, claims Football Insider.

Milan are in the race to sign talented River Plate star Julian Alvarez in the off-season, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Fiorentina have also shown interest in 21-year-old Alvarez, who has four caps for Argentina.

Norwich City are considering a move to replace embattled manager Daniel Farke with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, claims the Daily Mail. The Canaries have only two points from 10 games following their return to the Premier League. Howe has also been linked with the vacant Newcastle job.

Newcastle want to make Inter's Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic their first major signing in January, says The Sun. Brozovic is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lazio are looking to convince Luiz Felipe to ink a new deal with the club amid interest from BarcelonaSevilla and Real Betis, reports CalcioMercato. The Brazilian centre-back's contract expires at the end of this season.

Toni Kroos has fallen out of favour with Real Madrid. 

A January transfer is a top priority with the World Cup looming.

Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola await? 

 

TOP STORY – KROOS HEADED TO CITY?

Manchester City have reached out to Toni Kroos about a January transfer, El Nacional reports. 

The Germany international has played in just one league match for Real Madrid this term. 

The 31-year-old previously played for City boss Guardiola at Bayern Munich and a reunion could be on the cards. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Ferran Torres is set to land a contract extension at Manchester City, says the Daily Star, with the new five-year deal set to pay him £100,000 a week.

- Lazio midfielder Luis Alberto could be headed for a reunion with Simone Inzaghi at Inter, reports Calciomercato. 

- Everton lead several clubs in pursuit of Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, says Football Insider, with West Ham and Newcastle United also interested. 

- Liverpool and Manchester United are among the clubs queuing for 18-year-old United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi, the Mirror reports. Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich also have been linked to the teen. 

- Newcastle have increasingly focussed on Ajax's Erik ten Hag to replace Steve Bruce, the Express reports, adding that Marc Overmars could also make the move to St. James' Park as director of football. 

 

Simone Inzaghi was left anguished after his first Serie A defeat as Inter boss came at his former club Lazio, admitting: "We lost our heads."

A 3-1 setback came after a flurry of second-half goals from the home side in Rome, with the defending champions knocked out of their stride late on by a moment of controversy.

With Inter's Federico Dimarco down, apparently injured, Lazio played on and got the 81st-minute goal that put them 2-1 ahead, Felipe Anderson netting from close range after Ciro Immobile's strike was parried by Samir Handanovic.

Inter were furious and both sides had two players booked as bickering on the pitch threatened to spill over. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic sealed the points in stoppage time with a fine header, ending Inter's seven-game unbeaten start to the league campaign.

Inzaghi's new team took the lead against his former charges when Ivan Perisic converted an early penalty, but Lazio had a spot-kick in the 64th minute after Patric's header from a corner was handled by Alessandro Bastoni. Immobile tucked away that chance and the comeback gathered momentum from there.

The result rankled with Inzaghi, who said afterwards: "That was our best recent performance, but when a team like ours is a goal up, we have to manage the game better in terms of our final ball and double our lead."

Quoted on the official Inter website, he added: "Unfortunately, they scored their equaliser from a corner that we shouldn't have conceded. From that point on, the game changed and Lazio got back into the contest.

"The second goal was a bit strange and we lost our heads, which is something we can't allow to happen. It's disappointing. It's a setback that we didn't need in terms of our league position, but we'll take the performance and move on."

Inter sit third in the Serie A standings, behind Napoli and Milan, and their next league clash sees them face Juventus on Sunday of next weekend.

"When you face sides like Lazio, you can't give them a chance to get back into the match," Inzaghi said. "We managed the contest particularly well for an hour, but we then let our opponents back into the game and paid the consequences."

Lazio head coach Maurizio Sarri said Inter should have put the ball out of play themselves when they had an opportunity after Dimarco went to ground.

Sarri was also dismayed to see Luiz Felipe, who had an excellent game in central defence, red-carded after the final whistle.

Luiz Felipe, in celebration mode, jumped on his former Lazio team-mate Joaquin Correa, who left for Inter in August. Correa did not see the funny side and Luiz Felipe was in tears after being dismissed.

"Luiz Felipe told me he was saying goodbye to Correa, they played together for a long time. They didn't want to fight," said Sarri. "It's a big misunderstanding."

Lazio scored twice late on as they came from behind to beat Inter 3-1 and end Simone Inzaghi's unbeaten start in Serie A with his new club.

Ivan Perisic opened the scoring from the spot after just 12 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, before Lazio's Ciro Immobile equalised with a penalty of his own after the break.

Controversy followed as Felipe Anderson tapped in on the rebound from Immobile's strike with nine minutes remaining, with Inter's Federico Dimarco seemingly down on the ground and injured in the build-up to the goal.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic added a third with a late header as Inter's unbeaten start to their title defence, under the guidance of former Lazio boss Inzaghi, abruptly ended. The result leaves them four points behind leaders Napoli, who host Torino on Sunday.

Lazio's Luiz Felipe was red-carded after the full-time whistle for an altercation with former team-mate Joaquin Correa as tempers flared after the conclusion of the game.

Simone Inzaghi is unsure what type of reception he will receive when Inter travel to Lazio this weekend but is excited to return to his former home.

The 45-year-old replaced Scudetto-winning boss Antonio Conte at San Siro in June, a week after bringing an end to his five-year spell in charge of Lazio.

In the three points for a win era, nobody has managed more Serie A games for Lazio than Inzaghi (197), while only Sven-Goran Eriksson has a better points-per-game return (1.9 compared to 1.82) among those to have managed at least 50 matches.

Inzaghi had previously spent 11 years with the Biancocelesti in his playing days and six years working as coach of the youth team.

After winning the Coppa Italia in 2019 and guiding Lazio back into the Champions League last term, when they reached the last 16, Inzaghi's unexpected departure to take over at Inter did not go down well with some fans of the Rome club.

According to reports from Italy, the relationship between Inzaghi and Lazio president Claudio Lotito has still not been repaired, but the Inter boss is looking forward to walking out at the Stadio Olimpico.

"It's not a match like the others. For me it's a return to my home of 22 years," Inzaghi said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"It will be a great thrill to see the lads who have always given everything for me and the people behind the scenes who were always special.

"In addition, I'll get to see the Lazio fans, who have been very important for me. We have celebrated and suffered together in these years, reaching great targets that haven't been achieved for a long time.

"I know there will be boos and applause, but it's part of the job. I will accept them. They know that I have always given everything."

 

Asked about his relationship with Lotito, five months on from exiting Lazio, Inzaghi replied: "A lot has been said and heard, but I think he and [sporting director Igli] Tare have been very important for my coaching career.

"Thanks to them I coached Lazio. I will never stop thanking them, knowing that we integrated well and achieved great results."

Inzaghi was succeeded at Stadio Olimpico by Maurizio Sarri, who has won three, drawn two and lost two of his first seven Serie A games in charge.

Lazio are unbeaten in their last 16 home matches in the Italian top flight, winning 14 of those in what is their longest such run since 2002.

And Inzaghi has been impressed by Sarri's work since taking on the job in the Italian capital.

"I think Lazio have played some excellent games," Inzaghi said. "They are a very well-built team. A new coach has arrived and he's very good at organising the teams.

"They are playing excellent games, but they lost the last one and therefore they will be angry and will want to play well."

Inzaghi confirmed that Chile pair Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal will not be involved due to returning late from international duty, while Argentina's Lautaro Martinez will be monitored ahead of Saturday's game.

After two weeks off, Lazio face a gruelling run of matches that will also see them face Marseille in the Europa League before league games with Hellas Verona, Fiorentina and Atalanta in the next fortnight.

Sarri is not happy with the congested fixture list and suggested money now takes priority over player welfare.

"We trained for two weeks in reduced ranks, it's difficult to evaluate," Sarri said at a news conference.

"This is the current state of football; maybe it doesn't belong to me anymore. Every month we play seven games in 19 days and then we are 11 days without players.

"In practice they train more in the national team than with the club. We are not looking at football as a sport but a show where you try to squeeze out money everywhere. Maybe I’m too old for all this."

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

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