The Scudetto hopefuls fell to just their second defeat of 2020-21, although the loss did not stop them from remaining top halfway through the season
AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic warned his team-mates they could not afford to rest on their laurels after seeing the Serie A winter champions collapse to a 3-0 defeat at home to Atalanta on Saturday.
The Rossoneri veteran knows more than most about what it takes to finish at the top of the pile.
Ibrahimovic, a league champion in four different nations, is gunning for his 14th such title in 2020-21 with Stefano Pioli’s side.
But any celebrations at having reached the halfway stage of the season in first place were overshadowed by a miserable afternoon at San Siro, where Cristian Romero, Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata all struck for the visitors.
Milan remain two points clear of nearest rivals Inter, but Ibrahimovic insists they cannot afford to play as poorly again if they wish to take the Scudetto.
“A lot went wrong today. I don’t want to look to excuses, as in every game you must go out there looking to get the result. We didn’t manage that today,” Ibrahimovic told Sky Sport Italia after the final whistle.
“The important thing now is to recover our energies and focus on the next game. Fortunately, that is only a couple of days away, so we have the chance to make up for it.
“After 19 rounds in which we’ve lost only two games in Serie A, I think that’s not too bad. Unfortunately, when you are missing so many players and have some inexperienced ones to come on in their place, you can tell.
“That is not an excuse. We are working hard and making sacrifices. We are the winter champions, but that means nothing to me, other than I guess we’ve done well so far. The difficult part begins now.”
Saturday also saw Mario Mandzukic make his Milan debut off the bench after moving to San Siro during the January transfer window.
Ibrahimovic is looking forward to working with the striker, although he admits that so far communication has proved rather difficult.
“Mandzukic doesn’t say much. I tried to say hello to him in Slav, in Italian,” he added.
“The coach asked him if he wanted to say a few words and he said no. He’s not a talker, but that’s fine, he is very concentrated.”