Football: Milan coach plays down Ibrahimovic's angry reaction to substitution in magnificent 5-1 win

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was clearly annoyed at being taken off in the 5-1 win over Bologna on July 18, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli has brushed off Zlatan Ibrahimovic's angry reaction to being substituted in the 5-1 win over Bologna, saying only that the 38-year-old needs to avoid over-exerting himself amid a crowded fixture list.

The Swede was clearly annoyed at being taken off in the 62nd minute of Saturday's (July 18) match at San Siro, the third time in four games he has been replaced around the hour mark, and ignored a fist bump from Pioli as he left the field.

"It's natural that he doesn't like being substituted," said the coach. "He said something to me which I honestly didn't understand.

"He was important for the team but I have to make sure he conserves energy - we are playing every three days and he is coming back from injury."

Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer scored his first Serie A goal as the rampant side thumped Bologna to maintain their excellent recent form.

Alexis Saelemaekers also scored his maiden goal for the club to go with strikes from Hakan Calhanoglu, Ante Rebic and Davide Calabria as they overwhelmed the visitors and might have won by a greater margin.

They move to 56 points from 34 games to take a grip on sixth place, the final Europa League qualifying spot, and keep up their record of scoring two or more goals in all their eight Serie A matches since the resumption of the season.

Bologna, who are 10th on 43 points, looked lethargic and created little in the Milan penalty area, but did score just before half-time through Japan international defender Takehiro Tomiyasu, his first for the club.

The result is further confirmation of the work of Pioli in providing the side with more of an attacking threat.

They opened the scoring on 10 minutes following a superb move that oozed class - Rebic's clever back-heel set Theo Hernandez free on the left wing and his cross was dummied by Ibrahimovic into the path of Saelemaekers, who side-footed home.

The home side continued to create openings almost at will, and added a deserved second midway through the first half, albeit via a gift from Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski, whose attempted clearance fell straight to Calhanoglu and the Turkey international applied a simple finish.

Franck Kessie hit the post as Milan kept up their high-tempo start, but it was the visitors who scored next with a rare foray forward, centre-back Tomiyasu crashing a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box to make the half-time score 2-1.

The two-goal advantage was restored minutes into the second half though, as Bennacer burst into the box and provided a powerful finish to break his Serie A duck.

Rebic's excellent shot on the turn added a fourth before the hour-mark as Milan pulled clear, before substitute Rafael Leao had an effort cleared off the line.

Leao then set up Calabria for a simple finish as the home side recorded their biggest victory of the season.

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