Atalanta 1-1 AC Milan: Five things we learned – Bennacer brilliance and familiar hurdles

By Ivan Stoev -

After a goal fest in the opening game against Udinese which the Rossoneri won 4-2, Pioli and his men travelled away from home to face Atalanta in what was an intriguing early-season encounter.

The Bergamo side are motivated to fight for a top four spot this season and to not miss out on Champions League football – or at least European competitions – for the second campaign in a row.

The game started off fairly balanced with Milan having more of the ball but failing to create any significant chances in the final third. The first to strike were Atalanta through Malinovskyi, who was left completely free on the edge of the penalty area and managed to put the ball into the back of the net.

The Rossoneri continued to hold the ball and the territory more than their opponents following the goal but the chances did not follow as they struggled to break through Atalanta’s defence.

In the second half Milan looked a bit sharperand it was Bennacer that managed to score a lovely goal in the 68th minute to draw his side level. Unfortunately for him, the players in front of him failed to produce anything in the final quarter of the game and it ended all square. Here are five things we learned…

1. Back to mediocrity 

Brahim Diaz had a fantastic start to the season with a goal and an assist against Udinese, keeping his spot heading into clash with Atalanta despite the presence of Charles De Ketelaere.

We have seen the odd spar from him here and there, but all the expectations crumbled against the Bergamo side after the Spaniard produced a sub-par performance, which looked a lot like his struggles last season as he failed to make any impact whatsoever.

After this display it seems like a no-brainer to start De Ketelaere in the coming games and Diaz will have to settle for the bench, with Yacine Adli also knocking on the door.

2. The problem persists

After a very positive pre-season with four goals, Junior Messias also raised the expectations towards him, but just as he failed to impress against Udinese he also failed to produce anything against Atalanta too.

This highlights that Maldini and the management should not really settle with Alexis Saelemaekers and Messias on that right hand side since neither of them are able to be a game change like Rafael Leao is on the left hand side.

At this point it doesn’t seem like a new winger will join, but this could’ve been a wake-up call that prompts Maldini to maybe look for a last-minute deal before the market close.

3. MVP struggles to shine

Rafael Leao was not involved in any of the four goals against Udinese and he did not look like his usual self, and it wasn’t much different against Atalanta as the Portuguese winger failed to impose himself in the game.

He managed to beat his man a couple of times in the first half, drawing a yellow card from Toloi, but the end product wasn’t there. In the second half he tried to take on the responsibility himself and attempted a couple of long range efforts but was subbed off looking frustrating.

With a lot of noise around his renewal and rumours that his agent has asked for a higher salary, the former Lille man will need to regain his form from last season and build upon that if he wants that world-class salary.

4. Elegance and dominance

What a game from Ismael Bennacer. The Algerian was Milan’s best player on the pitch and was involved in every good play for the Rossoneri on the night as he also picked up a very important goal.

Bennacer had no troubles with Atalanta’s midfield and showed just how good he can be when he is fully fit, so Pioli would surely like for him to continue in the same fashion especially with Tonali just coming back from injury and Rade Krunic now out for a month.

Unlike his partner in the middle Tonali – who looked a bit off the pace on his return – the former Empoli man actually took on the responsibility and was Milan’s engine.

5. Lacking concentration

After allowing two goals against Udinese, Milan’s defence looked tidier this time around against a better opponent. Davide Calabria did a good job on that right hand side as he registered a few tackles, but failed to make an impact going forward.

In the middle Kalulu and Tomori did well. The Frenchman was unfortunate that the ball deflected into Maignan’s net off his knee, but was good throughout the rest of the night.

It could be argued that Kalulu could’ve also reacted better on the goal and actually charged down Malinovskyi to prevent the shot, but the blame was more on Tonali as he had to push out of the penalty box and mark his man which he wasn’t even close to doing.

On the left, Theo Hernandez did all he could to help his side win the game but it wasn’t enough. The combinations between him and Leao didn’t click as we have seen and the ex Real Madrid man didn’t have as big of an impact on the attack as he would’ve liked to have. Theo was, however, very solid in defence as he barely made a mistake at the back.

Tags AC Milan Atalanta-Milan


  1. 3. “Rafael Leao did not look like his usual self”.
    On contrary what we saw this last 2 games is Rafael Leao usual self of the last 3 years. Lazy, disinterested, non existent, that’s who Leao has been most of the 3 years as a Milan player, that’s who he is.
    Just look at the Napoli kid Khvicha, 3 goals in 2 games plus couple assists. 2 years younger than Leao. Cost them 10 mil.
    Everyone talks about the right side even though of all 5 goals Milan has scored this season 4 came thru the right side, 1 Theo cross on Brahim goal came through the left. Leao had no hand in any of the goals.

    1. And We skipped the chance to sign him a year ago makes it even worse.

      But Leao didnt play bad. Every team figured out if they shut Leao and Rebic down hard, Milan’s attack is useless. Atalanta did exactly that.

      NO team has ever marked Diaz because everyone knows he’s gonna try dribbling and lose the ball anyway. Messias and Salamander can’t make a pass/cross even if their life depended on it. So, Atalanta’s who defense focused on Leao+rebic.

      It’s only after CDK coming on that we started creating real chances. Even Bennacer’s goal was from the right because Atalanta didn’t even feel the need to defend our RWs that’s how BAD they are.

      If you watched Either of those games, you would know the goals we scored was only because Neither Udinese, nor Atalanta defended our RW. They focused all on Leao. And if, we can use THAT and strengthen our RW.. it’s gonna be a very good season for us.

      1. That’s hilarious.
        So teams don’t even defend Brahim and Messias and they have 2,3 players on Leao?
        Stop it . No one is double teaming Leao. There is no need. They know what he is going to do. They watch game film. Step over, kick the ball forward and try to outrun your defender. He doesn’t pass the ball , and when he shoots don’t even try to block it because it’s going in the stands.
        Is that the reason he doesn’t run or maybe he is in his feelings over the contract?
        Big players always get the majority of attention from defenses and they still find a way to be productive. I guess Leao isn’t one of those.
        How long will leao fans blame everyone else and make up excuses for their guy?

        1. Are you kidding! Everyone is doubling Leao, the WB and CB drifted left every time Leao made a run. If you watch any replay you’ll see. Brahim isn’t really marked tightly because he never plays the smart pass, he just runs the ball straight into trouble. Rebic can’t play with back to goal and without a 10 who actually forces to CBs to keep track of him Milan will always struggle against the low block while in the 4-2-3-1.

          1. “Everyone is doubling Leao”

            Everyone’s doubling Mbappe, Lewandowski, Haaland, Kane etc. Somehow they still perform every night. 7 Million Dollar Men should be able to shine (almost) every week – not just 1-2 months per season.

          2. @bb

            No. Everyone is not doubling on Mbappe, Lewandowski, Haaland, Kane.. Because all those teams have MULTIPLE other goal threats from LW RW and MIDDLE while we have NONE! Its not that difficult to understand is it?

          1. Milan won the scudetto because they played as a team, not because of Leao so called dribbling.
            Milan had the best defense in the league, surely not because of Leao’s dribbling.
            The guy had 11 g 10 a season. Nothing special. He got the MVP because the league had to give it to someone. He might be the least deserving, or with the poorest contribution to ever to win MVP of Serie A.
            Milan won because they played as a team. In different stages during the season different players stepped up. Not because of Leao dribbling.

          2. @coco
            Du*mb argument mate if you are trying to tell us we would’ve won the Scudetto just because we played as a team without Leao’s goals/assists no matter how good of a defense we had. You don’t like Leao, that’s fine, but bullsh*tting aint gonna help you with it.

          3. Would have Milan won the scudetto without Maignan saves, how many clean sheets he had? Almost as many as Leao G/A contributions.
            How about without Theo , Kalulu, Tomori, Calabria ?
            I guess according to Leao’s fans Tonali, Kessie, Bennacer dominating in midfield most games had nothing to do with Milan winning the scudetto.
            Giroud goals vs Inter and Napoli (Yes goals vs big teams, unlike Leao) also had nothing to do with it.
            Zlatan scored 8 goals even though he played a quarter of the season and he is 40 years old.
            But no it was only Leao’s 1 “dribbling ” that he does that won us the scudetto .
            It’s not about liking or not liking Leao. The guy stinks most games but his fans try to find excuses and blame every other player.
            Even Sacchi calls him out, but for Leao’s fans it’s easier to just blame Brahim, Messias and Saelemakers. Neither one od those guys are acting as MVP’s and demand 7 mil a year.
            You want those money, you gotta contribute almost every week , not on rare occasions vs bottom of the table teams

          4. Leao only scores/assists Vs Bottom of the table teams? lol

            My dumb*ss has been wasting time arguing with someone who doesn’t even watch Milan games lol that’s pathetic of me. LOL

            I guess Liverpool, Juve, Atalanta, Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina, Sassuolo are all bottom of the league tables according to all knowing ‘COCO’ LMFAO I rest my case. Good day to you mate.

          5. What has Leao’s dribblings LAST season got to do with the two matches THIS season? Nothing! Only the form of today is relevant because past performances means nothing today.

          6. @bb So, past doesn’t matter? LMFAO For real mate? you are saying a player who earned Milan 23 points all by his skill last season is useless now in only two games in a seasons? You expect everyone to be superman 24/7? lol

            According to your logic, Messi CR7 Pele Maradona are all to be mocked and ridiculed now since they are not in the golden age now? lol
            Holy Hell Maradona is dead, so we must all go and pee in his grave because he can’t play football ever because.. past doesn’t matter right? WTF mate?

            Let me put Things into perspective for the few braincells you have. With the team we have, without Leao’s goals and assists, we don’t even get to be in the top 4 because no one in this team has the Ability to do what Leao did. Let that sink in.

            Leave Scudetto, we don’t even get to play UCL if it wasn’t for Leao. That’s a fact. Doesn’t matter if you agree or not.

          7. Milan4lyf: So you’re comparing one-season-wonder Leao to Pele, Maradona & Messi now? LOL!!!!!!!

            Past season don’t mean **** this season. The current state of players should decide who gets to play and who doesn’t. They shouldn’t play based on old merits.

            I’m not saying that Leao wasn’t good in April-May but I’m saying it means nothing this season.

            “With the team we have, without Leao’s goals and assists, we don’t even get to be in the top”
            – The thing is that is has done NOTHING so far. 0+0. Let that sink in. It’s a team effort and everyone needs to pitch. Also defensively. And Leao isn’t doing that either. He doesn’t defend at all. Let that sink in as well. Even Messi does more defending than Leao. Let that also sink in.

      2. Most honest analysis, everyone just wanted to crucify Leao , to be candid he is doing well and will be better, off course he is the MVP so all eyes on him, He is a game changer any day

        1. Lol
          He is a game changer on some rare days , surely not on any day.
          He sure did change the game vs Atalanta the moment he left the field and was subbed for Origi

          1. I am pretty sure Milan fans would gladly take a a player who can be a ‘game changer on rare days’ if that means we win scudetto again than having the best player on a delusional Coco’s earth.. ‘Origi’. lol

          2. Ha ha ha.
            No one called Origi the best player.
            I said Leao changed the game because he was subbed off. Origi just happened to be the guy who was subbed on for the “rare occasions mvp”

  2. Diaz was mediocre in the first game as well, but he was lucky.

    That assist he made to rebic would never happen against any team with CBs who has more than one braincell.

    That goal he scored was PURE LUCK. but some reason everyone thought Diaz was the messi of Milan.

    The only way to get out of this mess is to start CDK on the right and Adli on CAM. Hope Pioli sees it through and makes the right choices. Diaz issues are psychological.

  3. I will keep on saying this, Messias is not a top quality player, Milan wasted money on him and florenzi, just look at that wasted delivery

  4. The problem yesterday was entirely Leao, dudé acting like he won ballondor, I am now regreting why he won that mvp, we could have gone a goal up earlier, all he had to do is cross or pass the ball but the only thing he wanna do slow the attack, run pass player and try to score from impossible angle…….even Tomori was seen telling him to get forward because he was just dropping to take the ball and dribble and he failed somany times….that dude needs to be talked to.

    Pioli also is part of the problem, the issue in this team is very clear, why then is the coach not doing anything…… Atalanta game was going to be about the influential players, that’s why giansperini started malynovski, pioli should have had his influential players from the start…..giroud, Leao,rebic and CDK should have started at CF,LW,RW & AMF respectively and we would have won the match….this whole gamble of Diaz and messias with salamankers needs to stop, it’s utterly gabbage…we just gave Atalanta 1 point

    1. Couldn’t have been put better. It’s a no-brainer to continue the woes of last season even with re-enforcements at the coaches disposal, won’t make sense to me today, tomorrow or ever.

  5. My personal opinion is that Saelemakers should be the starter on the right. He has more pace and is more helpful dropping back and defending as needed compared to the other wingers. One example was yesterday where he dropped back to the left side, regained ball control and then ran back to his position. Sure he lacks the quality but he takes decent chances when he gets the ball (they really seem to pass to him much less) and I think there is a potential for improvement with consistent minutes, he’s 23. Not the best situation, but let him play with the hopes of converting more goals & assists and if not, hopefully it increases his value/visibility where we can sell at a reasonable level.

    1. Seriously guy??? You have to be the only person in the world still wanting to see Saleamakers in the lineup. Complain about Messias all you want, he’s a better option. He scored 3 times as many goals as Salemaekers in about 1/3 of the minutes. You can bring in Salemaekers when you have a lead and want to protect it, he is of no use otherwise.

  6. As good as Bennacer is, he will get injured soon ( I hope he does not ) so we need another cm. with Diaz I find that he wants to show how two footed he is on the ball instead of concentrating on being decisive. Messias is one of the worst Brazilian I have seen in a long time, in his mind he thinks he got a left foot like a prime Rivaldo. As inconsistent as Leao has been I would stick with him I believe he will come good

  7. I hate the fact that you all are just being biased because how do you expect a player to perform if you pass him the ball less (or pass it to him in tight spaces with no option) I’m talking about Diaz (the only issue he has is he is not physical) and Alexis…. Same thing happened with CDK only highlight yesterday was his pass to tonali and after that he was anonymous because his team mates didn’t pass the ball to him and that’s the same thing that happened with DIAZ yesterday….there was an aspect of the match Alexis was very free because Maehle was tired and couldn’t press him but both Calabria and florenzi refused to pass him the ball on both occasions….And Leao wasn’t playing with the team, he wanted to prove a point when he could have assisted a goal (same goes for Junior also)…you guys should stop being biased CDK is an upgrade to DIAZ yes but What impact would CDK have when he doesn’t receive the ball or we play back passes more often than not

  8. My concern with Milan is the champions league. How will the squad put up against the rest of europe? With serie a, it will be up n down till they settle down. But, with europe, it’s a knockout competition. No quality reinforcement on the right, so we are left with S & M; no adequate replacement for Kessie, while our best player is off n on. It’s definitely a long wait till January. Hope we will still be in the champions league by that time

    1. That’s football for you. The real stars shine every night. One season wonders don’t. That’s the reality. Hero to zero? Not the fans’ fault. The player is on the pitch doing his thing. If he’s not performing then he’s to blame.

      Critic is quite often deserved. Fans don’t want to bash on own players. But that’s inevitable if the player doesn’t even look interested in playing. You get what you deserve.

  9. I believe we played a great game but were tricked by Atalanta. They didn’t seem to play their usual open game and defended, very well. We struggle to break down teams that play with low block.

  10. Apparently a draw with Atalanta away from home is the end of the world, as if teams have to win every game to be considered GOOD ENOUGH. I don’t remember any team winning every single game in a season, do you?

    1. Atalanta played like crap and it would have been an easy win but Milan threw 2 points in to the bin for no reason. Those 2 points might be important in May 2023.

      It’s not often than Atalanta puts 3 points on a plate to be taken without a fight. They now did.

  11. We deserved 3 points more than Atalanta did… Kalulu had to just finish one of the 2 headers off of the PERFECT crosses by Bennacer… or Tonali should’ve finished his easy shot… OR THE MOST OBVIOUS one is Messias should’ve squared the ball to Tonali (off that Theo cross) and Tonali would’ve had an EASY tap in goal.


    Either Rebic should start at RW so CDK can start at CAM where he’s most comfortable; or Adli start at CAM and CDK start at RW. I prefer Rebic on RW. He can play there effectively and he is excellent and sending in good crosses to either Giroud or Origi for goals. Messias is GARBAGE.

  12. Arsalan, that is correct — even though we would’ve loved 3 points there, getting any result on the road at a very tough stadium to play in, isn’t such a bad result.

    We have some things to fix/tweak and we will be fine…. hopefully Pioli will start our best 11 players from now on (which means NO Messias and probably no Diaz… CDK and Rebic need to start and Giroud).

    1. Agree 100%, there are glaring issues with our team, as us with most teams, to varying degrees, because nothing is perfect. And we do need to make changes, but just drawing against Atalanta does not suddenly make us a bad team.

  13. Lots of comments here shows that a lot of people don’t understand football…
    It’s the start of the season and we expect the players to be a bit rusty!
    I don’t think a sport car takes off on 100mph, it needs time to create momentum

  14. After a very positive pre-season with four goals, Junior Messias also raised the expectations towards him, but just as he failed to impress against Udinese he also failed to produce anything against Atalanta too.
    This highlights that Maldini and the management should not really settle with Alexis Saelemaekers and Messias on that right hand side since neither of them are able to be a game change like Rafael Leao is on the left hand side.
    LOL LOL LOL LOL, this is so funny…humans stupidity is infinite ..espacially IT management ;-))

  15. No words about Origi? Hope that he has something left in him, but I really don’t see anything. He is a new Castillejo for me. Looking forward to see me wrong.

  16. It is too early in the season to condemn players or team performance. Player are not yet a pick physical and technical conditions. Leao was MVP last season because he deserves it. He will come good this season too, it is too early to make judgement.

  17. “Leao was MVP last season because he deserves it. ”

    Nope. He was the MVP last season as Serie A decision-makers couldn’t think of a better candidate. 2 good months shouldn’t make up for average rest of the season but for some reason it did.

  18. even when we played good in udinese leao didnt play well bench leao play rebic lw giroud st adli cam cdk rw if we cant put adli or cdk just put one of them in the line up just do something

  19. I will say this and I feel strongly about this ,Olivier Giroud should have started this match .He is a natural centre forward ,extremely strong and difficult to shake of the ball ,inside the 18 yard area ,he is simply the best ..When he starts we will not lose many games .At least we got a draw and did not lose the match ,the fact is we should have won …There is plenty to play for ,and we can challenge again this season for honours …We have so many good players at our disposal .

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