Serie A - Ibrahimovic hat-trick sinks Palermo
Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck a sublime 15-minute hat-trick as Milan demolished Palermo 4-0 at the Stadio Renzo Barbera to go four points clear at the top of Serie A.
The Swede, returning from a three-match suspension, was at his unplayable best in the first half and opened the scoring with a lovely finish from 12 yards after Robinho had found him.
Ibrahimovic doubled the Rossoneri's lead when he finished a slick counter-attack move, before completing a classy hat-trick in the 35th minute with a sublime strike from 20 yards.
Thiago Silva added a fourth with a towering header as Milan stretched their lead over Juventus in the race for the Scudetto: after Juve were later held 1-1 at home to Chievo, Milan are three points clear having played a game more.
After being banned for a slap on Napoli's Salvatore Aronica last month, Ibrahimovic was at his majestic best as he inspired Milan to an impressive win.
Milan came flying out of the blocks and fired an early warning shot when Urby Emanuelson cut in from the right and fired a low shot into the side-netting. The Dutchman had another good effort a few minutes later, but his stinging drive was stopped by Emiliano Viviano.
Palermo’s Edgar Barreto came close with a good low shot but the home side failed to heed the warning signs and were unhinged on the counter-attack for Ibrahimovic’s first goal in the 21st minute.
Sulley Muntari won the ball 25 yards from the Palermo goal and fed Robinho, whose first time pass put through Ibrahimovic and he curled it in with his left foot.
Igor Budan could have levelled when he climbed high to head Fabrizio Miccoli’s header just wide – but Palermo were undone with another counter-attack goal.
This time Robinho burst forward and found the big Swede, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and drilled it under Viviano in style.
After a reasonably solid start, Palermo were shaken by those two goals - but worse was to come when Ibrahimovic completed his hat-trick four minutes later.
Collecting the ball 20 yards out, he nonchalantly curled it into the top corner with his right foot to complete a wonderful hat-trick.
Ibrahimovic was the star of the show and he could have made it four before the break, but was denied from point-blank range by a superb save from Viviano. Palermo were being punished for their naivety in over-committing on the attack time and time again.
The second half was a flatter affair but it was no surprise when Milan made it four just before the hour, with Silva flashing a header beyond Viviano after substitute Stephan El Shaarawy had picked him out with a cross from the left.
Barreto emerged as Palermo's main attacking threat, and he hit the post late on to sum up Palermo's evening.