MILAN (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimović set up two goals but was also sent off as AC Milan won 3-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Saturday to keep its small Serie A title hopes alive.
Ibrahimović had a hand in both Milan’s first-half goals but was shown a straight red card on the hour mark for something he appeared to say to referee Fabio Maresca. Riccardo Gagliolo reduced the deficit but substitute Rafael Leão sealed the result in stoppage time as Milan moved to within eight points of league leader Inter Milan, which hosts Cagliari on Sunday.
“I spoke to Zlatan and he told me that he absolutely didn’t say anything offensive toward the referee,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “He had a discussion but without lacking respect.
“I haven’t spoken to Maresca and I don’t know his version. The last thing Ibra said was ‘so you’re not interested in what I’m saying.’ It’s obvious that the match changed after his sending off but my team managed to fill the gap with a lot of will and determination.”
Milan is in a tight fight for second place with Juventus and Atalanta. Both play on Sunday.
In Parma, Milan got off to a perfect start as Ibrahimović sent a throughball to Ante Rebić, who gathered with his back to goal, spun round and fired powerfully into the top right corner.
The 39-year-old Ibrahimović was also involved in Milan’s second, a minute from the break. Theo Hernández played a one-two with the Sweden forward and touched it onto Franck Kessié, who drilled into the bottom left corner.
Parma had a triple chance to get back into the match five minutes into the second half but Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off a double save to deny first Andrea Conti and then Graziano Pellè, and Juraj Kucka’s attempt was over the bar.
Ibrahimović was sent off shortly after and Parma got back into the match six minutes later. A ball was floated to the back post and Pellè nodded it across to Gagliolo, who managed to prod in from close range.
Milan held on and made sure of all three points when Diogo Dalot raced down the right and rolled across for fellow substitute Leão to fire into the bottom right corner, shortly after coming off the bench.
Spezia scored two goals in the dying minutes to complete its comeback and beat bottom-place Crotone 3-2.
Martin Erlić scored one and set up another as Spezia moved 10 points above the relegation zone. Crotone fell 12 points below 17th-place Torino, which won 1-0 at Udinese.
Andrea Belotti’s penalty was enough to send Torino five points clear of the bottom three.
Crotone broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion, five minutes from halftime. Koffi Djidji chested the ball down with his back to goal, near the edge of the penalty area, and the defender scored on the turn with a half volley which looped over the goalkeeper and under the crossbar.
Daniele Verde leveled in the 63rd but Simy restored Crotone’s lead 15 minutes later.
Crotone appeared to be heading for its first win after three successive defeats but Erlić found an unmarked Giulio Maggiore to net the equalizer in the 89th minute.
And three minutes later Erlić scored the winner. Ardian Ismajli’s header came off the crossbar and Erlić noded in the rebound from close range.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports