AC Milan 2-0 Atalanta: Five things we learned – inventive and impenetrable

By Ivan Stoev -

AC Milan hosted Atalanta at San Siro on Sunday night in a huge game amid the battle for the top four, but only the Rossoneri seemed to get the memo regarding how big it was as they ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.

The game started off well for Stefano Pioli’s side as they pressed well from the front and created chances which eventually led to an own-goal giving them the lead after Theo Hernandez’s volley cannoned back off the post and hit Musso.

In the dying minutes of the game Junior Messias was put through on goal and dinked over Musso to seal the points after a lovely pass by Rafael Leao, clinching a crucial victory to move level with Inter in second. Here are five things we learned…

1. A quiet return

Mike Maignan finally returned from injury and he started the game after a five-month absence, but unfortunately for him and fortunately for Pioli, the Frenchman was barely involved at all.

That is because the trio of central defenders in front of him – Fikayo Tomori, Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu – did a superb job in keep Atalanta’s attack at bay as they failed to register a shot on target.

Despite having a quiet night, it was good to see Maignan back in action barking orders and organising the team in certain moments, and he will of course be crucial for the upcoming games, especially in the Champions League where every mistake is punishable.

2. Impenetrable wall 

Atalanta have the third-best attack in the league behind Napoli and Inter so it was always going to be a tough game for Milan’s defence, but Thiaw, Kalulu and Tomori made it seem easy as they had no trouble neutralising Hojlund and Lookman, who have been in form these past few weeks.

The fact that Atalanta had zero shots on goal speaks for itself and it would seem that Tomori and Kalulu have left their previously inconsistent performances behind them. Thiaw has also been an amazing addition in that three-man defence, with virtually zero mistakes in the over 400 minutes since a goal was last conceded.

The defence was the key in the Scudetto-winning season and it will be of great importance this time around to solidify the spot in the top four and make the most out of Champions League participation.

3. Outflanked

Theo Hernandez and Messias were both responsible for the goals that helped Milan grab all three points, and it’s refreshing to see the duo gain confidence and play better with each game.

The Frenchman seems to be back to his best after a negative period throughout January after the World Cup final disappointment, whilst the Brazilian followed up with another good outing having netted the winner against Monza in the previous round.

Wing-back is a new role to Messias, but he seems to have adapted very well to the new formation offering a lot more in attack than his alternatives.

4. Finding rhythm

One player that is still not at his very best is Rafael Leao. The Portuguese forward, however, looks much better than he looked in January and he is pretty much involved in the majority of dangerous attacks.

The youngster provided a brilliant one touch assist for Messias in the closing minutes and should have had a couple more assists but for wasteful finishing, and could have had a goal or two had his shooting boots been on.

It is evident that Leao is gaining momentum and looks to be playing more freely in this new formation, which allows him go get on the ball more often and also combine more with Giroud through the centre who did well with his hold-up play.

5. Righting the course

After a grim January, Pioli has actually managed to turn things around after he switched the formation, using a three-man rearguard which solved the defensive issues and led to four consecutive clean sheets.

The attack seemed to suffer from that in the Torino, Spurs and Monza games, yet things have been trending the right way and against Atalanta the Rossoneri created multiple big chances while giving away nothing at the other end.

Even without Bennacer, the midfield has also improved and the players are back to acting as a unit. Against Atalanta we saw great pressing and counter-attacks, but also lovely plays with few touches and sharp passes that left the away side clueless.

Both goals came after a move where all the players involved took a maximum of two touches before the attack resulted in a goal, which was entertaining to watch and looks nothing like the football we saw throughout January.

Pioli has to get the credit as he completely turned the ship around and Milan seem to be on the right path to finish the season strong.

Tags AC Milan Milan Atalanta


  1. Great piece!
    There have been some very positive signs. Its a great feeling to see them back in form. Hopefully we can give our best against spurs, oh how id love for us to beat them

  2. It won’t be an easy match, not a bit… but yes, we can win. But the two or even three clamorous scoring opportunities we wasted at San Siro may be sorely missed..

  3. Yes,I hope those chances missed at sansiro will not come back to hurt us in the end..I am happy Milan are playing well again but we need Bennacer in the midfield, again Leao needs to improve on his shootings,he wasted a lot clear chances in front of goal with poor shootings.. Forza Milan

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