Friday, October 15, 2021

Atalanta 2-3 Milan: Early Calabria strike helps unbeaten Milan into second in five-goal thriller

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 3 Oct 2021


Davide Calabria scored inside the first 30 seconds as Milan triumphed 3-2 over Atalanta to regain second place in the Serie A table on Sunday.

The Rossoneri captain tucked home the rebound after his initial shot was parried poorly by Juan Musso with the hosts caught cold, before Sandro Tonali profited from a Remo Freuler error to add a second and Rafael Leao rifled in a third.

Duvan Zapata smashed home a penalty after substitute Junior Messias was deemed to have handled the ball in the area after a VAR check and the striker set Mario Pasalic up to convert at the back post as the seconds wound down, but Gian Piero Gasperini’s men left it too late to salvage a point.

The result sees Milan maintain their unbeaten record, with this their sixth win from their opening seven league fixtures, only dropping points in their 1-1 draw away to Juventus so far. 

Calabria opened the scoring after less than 30 seconds, racing onto Theo Hernandez’s ball in behind and firing at Musso, who saved weakly, allowing the Milan right-back to tap into an empty net.

Milan keeper Mike Maignan was then called into action as Atalanta sought an equaliser, having to stretch to turn Davide Zappacosta’s fierce drive past the post and then palming Zapata’s header from the resulting corner over the bar.

The visitors doubled their advantage shortly before the break as Tonali picked Freuler’s pocket to go one-on-one with Musso, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and tucking inside the near post.

Former Atalanta midfielder Franck Kessie nearly got in on the action just three minutes later, but his side-footed strike flew just past the top-right corner. 

Just before the hour mark, Alexis Saelemaekers was denied from close range as his header from Ante Rebic’s right-wing cross was tipped over superbly by Musso as Milan pushed for a third goal.

Stefano Pioli’s men were eventually rewarded for their endeavour as the impressive Hernandez carried the ball from his own half to the edge of the box before sliding it to his left for Leao to blast into the top-right corner.

A VAR check on a shot from Zappacosta that ricocheted onto the arm of Messias, who slid in to block just inside the area, handed Atalanta a spot-kick, which Zapata converted emphatically down the middle to reduce the deficit.

Pasalic further reduced the arrears in the fourth minute of stoppage time, collecting Zapata’s low cross and firing past Maignan at the back post, but the hosts were ultimately unable to complete the comeback.

What does it mean? Milan equal best-ever league start

Milan’s impressive haul of 19 points from their first seven Serie A fixtures equals their best-ever start to a league campaign, last achieving the same total at this stage in the 2003-04 season, when they won the title.

It is only enough to put them into second place in the table, however, as the Rossoneri keep the pressure on Napoli, who are two points ahead after seven straight league victories.

Tonali adds scoring touch

Having scored just once in his first 60 Serie A appearances, Tonali’s strike to double Milan’s advantage was his second goal in his last seven games. Perhaps the 21-year-old midfielder has added a new string to his bow as he continues to develop.

Gasperini’s home struggles against Milan continue

Since joining Atalanta in the 2016-17 season, Gasperini has managed just one league win at home against Milan in six attempts, his lowest record against sides he has faced at least five times on home soil in Serie A in this period (also one against Juventus).

Key Opta Facts: 

– Milan have gained 19 points so far, equalling their best start in the first seven games of a single Serie A campaign (19 also in 2003-04, when they won the title).

– Tonali has scored two goals in his first seven league appearances this season, one more than in his first 60 Serie A appearances (one).

– Duvan Zapata has scored five goals versus Milan in Serie A, for three different teams (Atalanta, Sampdoria and Udinese).

What’s next?

Milan host Hellas Verona on October 16 in their next game, while Atalanta travel to face Empoli the day after.


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