What was AC Milan’s easiest path to a potential trophy this season came crashing to a halt last night as they lost 2-1 to Atalanta in their Coppa Italia quarter-final at San Siro.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes that Milan wanted to win the Coppa Italia which they have not won for 21 years, but now will have to focus their dreams on the Europa League which they have never won.
The Rossoneri will have to navigate in a sea of sharks, like Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen, while at the same time defending their precious Champions League place. The Coppa target vanishing certainly leaves a very bitter taste.
Atalanta won at San Siro with merit, starting from the tactical design. They were careful at the beginning to defuse Stefano Pioli’s schemes and absorb the home side’s predictable strong start, then they were increasingly aggressive.
The serenity with which La Dea accepted Rafael Leao’s goal to make it 1-0 and then hit back straight away is emblematic of the maturity they have developed in recent years with many campaigns in Europe.
Then there were the individuals: Ederson grew by the minute, finishing as a giant, while Teun Koopmeiners (two goals) was the match-winner, Miranchuk earned the winning penalty and De Ketelaere looked much improved compared to the version Milan saw.
Milan had less from their stars. Rafael Leao scored wonderfully and fed Theo Hernandez for what should have been the equaliser, but in the most difficult moment – after the goal to make it 1-2 – he often disappeared.
Tijjani Reijnders and Theo himself did well, but then it was difficult to find any other light. Luka Jovic never showed up, Yunus Musah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek played with low pace and low quality, and the defence made errors.
From Atalanta to Atalanta: after the defeat in Bergamo, Pioli had responded with five wins and a draw. Now he will have to start again (again) just as he always has. After the result last night jeers rained down from the Curva, which is a sign they knew the magnitude of the result.