AC Milan looked to keep their grip on fourth place in the table by dispatching one of the challengers for the final Champions League spot, an upstart Atalanta team that had been humming along looking quite good in the second half of the season.
However, after Krzysztof Piatek scored in first half-injury time, Milan grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck, and despite an opening goal and first half dominance, Atalanta were unable to get a win over Milan, and now Milan sit only a point behind their city rivals, Inter Milan, who will be going into their match against Sampdoria on Sunday in a bit of a crisis with their eternal rivals breathing down their necks.
Franck Kessie whiffed on a couple chances early in the first half. He first failed to work the keeper from a tight angle, and while the chance wasn’t great, his shot left a lot to be desired. A few minutes later, Suso had sent in a wonderful cross to the back post to a completely unmarked Kessie, but the midfielder somehow failed to get his header on target at the back post. The Atalanta keeper was rooted into place, and had the ball’s flight been altered ever in a slightest, it easily would have been the game’s opening goal.
Milan had a some trouble on set pieces, allowing a few open headers to Atalanta from corner kicks, but the team was finally made to pay for their wastefulness at the other end as Atalanta scored the opening goal from open play in the 33rd minute.
Josip Iličić had done brilliant work down the right hand side of the box, and when he cut back, he was able to pick out a couple Atlanta players making late runs into the box, and Remo Feuler put the ball into the back of the net. Gigio Donnarumma got his hand to the ball, and perhaps should have kept it out, but given that the shooter was totally unmarked and had the entire goal to shoot at, perhaps Milan fans should feel lucky that Donnarumma was even able to make a play for the shot at all.
Atalanta turned up the pressure after the goal, as their high press caused Milan problems all night and they looked to be cruising into halftime up 1-0 on the visitors. And then Piatek happened.
Initially made the far post run, made Djimsiti commit to it then pivoted back towards the center of the box across him, no way for Djimsiti to recover. Really nicely done by Piątek. Can’t praise this enough. pic.twitter.com/tBLeWkkpHn— Para (@Paracelsus) February 16, 2019
As GIF master @Paracelsus describes here, Piatek had some brilliant off-the-ball movement to get himself free for a good cross from Rodriguez which he somehow turned into a brilliantly struck shot that ended up in the back of the net. A wonder goal for one of Milan’s January acquisitions.
The Atalanta players and fans looked a little stunned going into halftime after Piatek’s stoppage time goal had leveled the match. Despite being the better team for the first 45 minutes, Atalanta found themselves level at the break and would have been looking to regain their lead in the second half.
However, instead Milan came out and did well to put the game away in the second half.
Hakan Calhanoglu got his first goal of the season in the 55th minute, putting Milan ahead for good. Calhanoglu has been criticized a lot this season, with much of it justified, so perhaps this fine strike will be enough for him to regain his confidence and get him back to playing like he was down the stretch last season, when it appeared he was among the best, if not the best, player at the club.
GOAL Piątek once more!— Para (@Paracelsus) February 16, 2019
Beautiful corner by Çalhanoğlu pic.twitter.com/Svuleqv08g
Calhanoglu continued to have an impact on the match, as he delivered the corner kick that resulted in Piatek rising above everyone else and heading the ball into the back of the net. Piatek’s determined header sealed the victory for Milan, as the 61st minute goal was the final nail in the coffin for the win over Atalanta.
Patrick Cutrone was subbed on for Piatek a few minutes later, and Samu Castillejo came on for Suso a few minutes after that. Diego Laxalt came on near the end of the match for Lucas Paquetà, but the damage had already been done and Milan saw out the 90 minutes and the four minutes of stoppage time to get a 3-1 win in Bergamo and solidify their Champions League credentials.