AC Milan 1-1 Atalanta: Five things we learned – masterclasses and missed chances

By Ivan Stoev -

After a disappointing 3-2 loss against Rennes in the Europa League, AC Milan faced Atalanta at San Siro hoping to solidify their spot firmly inside the top four.

It all started in the best way possible too with Rafael Leao scoring a beautiful just three minutes into the game, ending a five-month league goal drought in the process.

Milan looked in control of the game and were just about coasting until the 42nd minute when a penalty kick was awarded to Atalanta, which was questionable to say the least, but was converted calmly by Teun Koopmeiners to bring the scores level just before half-time.

Milan didn’t allow the goal to throw them off balance as they continued to dictate the game, however that didn’t result in a second goal as something was missing in the final third despite the dominance.

Here are five things we observed during the game…

1. That’s more like it!

As mentioned in the introduction, Leao finally got his goal in Serie A after his last one on September 23 against Verona, and what a moment of brilliance it was.

He picked up the ball on the left touchline with a lot of work to do in order to even get into a shooting position, but he bundled through Holm and Scalvini – no easy task – before opening up onto his right foot and whipping a gorgeous shot inside the far post.

The winger then continued to be the main threat for his team throughout the 90 minutes as he created chances for his team-mates and often drifted into central areas to try expose Atalanta in transition.

Unfortunately, the winning goal didn’t come in the end but Leao’s performance was something special, his best of the season in Pioli’s eyes. He was constantly trying to get on the ball and make things happen.

2. The Oscar for Best Director

If it weren’t for Leao’s goal and very strong overall performance, we would have probably put forward the notion that Yacine Aldi deserved to be the Man of the Match.

The Frenchman had a really complete performance in a deeper-lying midfield role, working very hard defensively with quite the few crucial interventions but was always asking for the ball in build-up too.

Aldi wasn’t afraid to play the difficult balls between the lines and most of the times they were pretty accurate, opening quite a bit of space for his team-mates and allowing them to run on the half-turn.

The game against Atalanta might just have been his best in red and black and it’s nice to see him developer further as he clearly has the talent to back it up.

3. Trio disappoint 

Whilst Leao and Aldi were the protagonists on the night, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ismael Bennacer and Christian Pulisic were the exact opposite.

Loftus-Cheek and Bennacer barely helped Adli in the middle and it’s a good thing that the youngest of the three played such a brilliant game otherwise the situation could’ve been much worse.

Pulisic also struggled as he couldn’t impact the game going forward whilst also committing a sloppy mistake at the back that could’ve been costly, but fortunately wasn’t as Atalanta didn’t take full advantage of the situation and Adli’s challenge bailed him out.

Going forward the only positive moment was when the American controlled the ball with style after a lovely long, diagonal pass by Leao, but the winger failed to find the target.

It wasn’t three disastrous performances by any means, but we just can’t help feeling that if just one of them had stepped up then that might have seen Milan over the line.

4. An isolated figure

It feels as though any criticism of Giroud must start with the obvious precursor that he has been picking up goals and assist throughout the season consistently, and he has worked overtime a lot too.

However, he has also on multiple occasions not been able to help the team out with his overall play and unfortunately that was the case against Atalanta. His hold-up play wasn’t really there, and in the second half when the crosses were flying in he never really got near.

The Frenchman offered little going forward and was at fault for the penalty, which despite being a very questionable decision, doesn’t really change the fact that he made a risky intervention which he perhaps should know better than to do, with all his experience.

5. Changeless changes

Pioli tried to change thing a bit as he introduced Davide Calabria, Yunus Musah and Noah Okafor, but contrary to the trend of the season so far they basically provided zero impact.

Calabria was just returning from a muscle injury which meant it was important for him to play a segment of such a challenging game, and though he got himself into some good crossing positions his end product was rusty.

Musah came on full of energy and tried to drive the play forward, yet he can sometimes give and impression of not really being aware of the game situation or what the right next move is.

Lastly, Okafor got quite a difficult assignment to come on and unpick an Atalanta side that – by Gasperini’s own admission – had essentially settled for a draw with five defenders and two holding midfielder.


Tags AC Milan Milan Atalanta


  1. I’ve learnt, and to borrow the words from Martin Bernhard when he was on goal back in the day, that Atalanta clammed up when they saw us. I was so surprised at how cowardly they played given their recent form. They were afraid of our offense as I suppose all the other teams bar Inter does. We also did well on our own merit too let’s not forget

    1. 😀 I dont recollect that i said that but i wont disagree though, they have often done that against us but i do think that we controlled the match last evening and that they was lucky to get out alive pretty much because we didnt know our moments to strike when the iron when it was hot. Horrible refereeing and var room decision destroyed this one as we was in control throughout the match but didnt manage to capitalize on it. A frustrating second half as i see it.

      1. I think it was someone who was annoying you and you’d had enough lol 😂. I have a pretty decent memory though so there’s that.
        Also we’ll have to agree to disagree on the pen. Can’t kick a man in the chest these days and get away with it. Other than that though, Atalanta didn’t really come to play like they normally do. I was very surprised

        1. 😀
          Well thats ok but i really dont see any error there as there is next to none contact and i also do think our play kept them down more than they were just willingly staying back sunday evening. In the end though they had a big chance in the dying minutes so the result could have been worse had it not been for maignan so it is what it is.

          1. The 5 things they learnt once again and have not rectified are :- losing to big teams and finishing second best.
            also when given the opportunity to advance Milan don’t take it under Pioli watch.
            If I were Pioli I would not worry about The Atalanta manager too much, but worry about your own teams lack of passion and discipline, and then you’ll get the results needed to manage a big team!

          2. I’m not saying pioli is above criticismn which he clearly isn’t but we actually played a good match and basically was in control throughout the match but lacked the end product which is down to the players and not pioli himself so i disagree with that assessment of yours.

  2. Unbelievably harsh on Pulisic and Giroud. Honestly, who are they imagining that is decisive every single game? Pulisic was making dangerous runs all match, it’s not his fault his teammates can’t deliver the ball accurately and on time. Yes, Leao did hit him with a nice pass that he maybe should’ve done better on but the degree of difficulty on that was very high. Have to score every single game I guess…

  3. Bennacer barely helped? He was everywhere, helping in the back, breaking up the play. I was even surprised how good he protected the ball at his feet with considering his small build. Just cause he’s a silent type of player doesn’t mean he don’t contribute. Imo, if Reijnders was playing alongside Adli, this midfield would crash.

    1. Yeah I thought Bennacer was decent too, tireless running and nearly got in the end of an Adli through ball.

      The onus is on the big team to press for the result. You can’t bemoan Atlanta for deciding to go for a draw, it is up to us to figure out and break them down.

      Regarding subs, Calabria did ok, he nearly scored with his first touch, and again Musah made driving runs I though both did ok. Okafor got 4 minutes…can’t count that.

      Something is missing. All that possession and no real penetration. It’s like they don’t play together week in week out. Rafa puts in great crosses but they just drift out for goal kicks while our players watch them. Adli moves the ball quickly and looks to slip into the channels and only Bennacer was really reading that.

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