Atalanta earned another considerable Serie A scalp as they thumped league leaders AC Milan 3-0 at the San Siro on Saturday evening.
Christian Romero struck the opening goal of the game as he converted with a great, diving header just before the half-hour mark. The visitors then doubled their advantage after the break, with Josip Ilicic winning and scoring a penalty. Duvan Zapata sealed the victory with just under a quarter of an hour remaining as he polished off a lethal counter-attack to condemn Milan to just their second league defeat of the season.
Here are three things we learnt from the San Siro:
Uncharacteristically wasteful from Milan
Sitting top of Serie A ahead of the match, AC Milan were aiming to extend their advantage but they simply were not able to do that due to wasting a number of opportunities. Stefano Pioli’s men had 14 shots throughout the match, with just two of those being on target. As a matter of fact, those efforts on goal came after the break.
According to Opta, it was the first time during the 2020/21 season that the Rossoneri had failed to trouble an opposition goalkeeper in the first-half of a match. It could be said then that there were two facets to Milan’s downfall; one being their lack of poor finishing, an odd occurence for a team who could call on the talents of Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic, recent signing Mario Mandzukic and the evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Another reason could also be that extremely slow start, something that Atalanta were able to take advantage of.
Ilicic the inspiration for Atalanta
One man who pushed the visitors to victory was Slovenian forward Josip Ilicic. The 32-year-old put in a thrilling showing in Milan, with the home side not able to handle him.
Throughout the 90 minutes, he was the main threat for Atalanta, having more shots with seven and more shots on target with three than any other player on the pitch. His all important penalty set the visitors on the road to what was eventually a stunning victory but his contributions did not end there.
No player on either side produced more key passes than Ilicic, whilst only Davide Calabria had more touches of the ball throughout the entire game. AC Milan could only get a lid on the forward by bringing him down, with Ilicic getting fouled five times. If he can continue to turn in these kind of brilliant performances, then he most definitely can spearhead a challenge for the Serie A crown.
Marker down from the visitors
Speaking of title charges, this game really will make supporters sit up and notice Atalanta. Whilst Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have been UEFA Champions League regulars in recent seasons, they have not quite been able to challenge right at the very top.
This result though changes the complexion of the Serie A table. Having defeated the current title favourites, Atalanta are now just seven points off top spot and can be backed at odds of 19/2 with the Betfair Exchange to lift the Scudetto come the end of the season.
With Inter Milan having failed to beat Udinese, it also means that if both Juventus and Napoli win their games in hand, there could potentially be just nine points separating the top six.
AC Milan: Donnarumma (6); Hernandez (6), Kalulu (5) (Musacchio (6), 57′) , Kjaer (6), Calabria (6); Kessie (5), Tonali (6), Meite (5) (Diaz (5), 45′), Castillejo (5) (Mandzukic (6), 70′), Leao (5) (Rebic (5), 70′), Ibrahimovic (5).
Atalanta: Gollini (7); Djimsiti (7) (Caldara (N/A), 90+1′), Romero (7), Toloi (6); Gosens (7) (Palomino (N/A), 90+1′), Freuler (7), de Roon (7), Hateboer (7) (Maehle (6), 67′); Ilicic (8) (Muriel (N/A), 82′), Zapata (7), Pessina (7) (Malinovskiy (N/A), 90′).
Goals: Romero (26′), Ilicic (53′ pen), Zapata (77′)
Referee: Maurizio Mariani
Yellow Cards: Hernandez (38′), Kessie (51′), Gosens (84′)
Red Cards: N/A