Review: Atalanta – Milan

Review: Atalanta – Milan

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On a rainy Sunday afternoon, a dramatic 92’ equalizer by Andrea Masiello is how a game with 12 yellow and 2 red cards between Atalanta and Milan ended.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini sent the same lineup that drew 1-1 at Lazio last weekend. There was only change, as Caldara replaced Palomino at the back. 19-year-old Musa Barrow was leading the attack, accompanied by shadow striker Alejandro Gomez. AC Milan’s last fixture was a painful 4-0 loss in the Italian cup final against Juventus. Gennaro Gattuso decided to switch his center forward, giving the advantage to Nikola Kalinic over Patrick Cutrone. There were two other changes. Lucas Biglia was back from injury and started in the midfield instead of Manuel Locatelli, whereas experienced Ignazio Abate was the right back, as youngster Davide Calabria was left on the bench.

Rain was pouring down in Atalanta as referee Marco Guida blew the opening whistle. Masiello and Abate were the recipients of the first yellow cards in the game in the 13th and 17th minute, respectively. Much like in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus, Milan was the team that was forcing the issue and dictating play, yet had nothing to show for it. The players were doing their best not to allow the rain to affect them, but it was falling so heavily that it was impossible to ignore it. Everyone on the pitch was soaking wet.

The teams were even opponents during the second part of the first half. There was a certain amount of tension because of a couple of controversial decisions by the referee and several reckless fouls. Atalanta was putting more and more pressure on the visitors as the half was nearing its conclusion. In the 41st minute, Gasperini’s men had three successive attempts at goal from inside Milan’s box and they were all blocked. It was a threatening situation. We went into the half-time break goalless.

Ricardo Montolivo replaced Lucas Biglia at the half. It’s quite possible that an unfortunate knee-in-the-back challenge by Gomez late in the first half was the reason why. Atalanta had by far the clearest chance of the game in the 53rd minute. Cristante got his head on a corner kick. Donnarumma made the save, but the ball came to Mattia Caldara, who wasn’t ready for it and reacted poorly, missing the net from two meters out. Experienced Slovenian international Josip Ilicic came in to replace Musa Barrow a minute after that. Cristante was everywhere during the opening 10 minutes of the second period.

A wonderful strike by Atalanta’s own Franck Kessie gave AC Milan the lead 60 minutes into the contest. What a bomb! Atalanta seemed to be getting closer to a goal when Milan scored. Then, things went horribly wrong for the home side when center back Rafael Toloi was sent off in the 64th minute. His initial challenge earned him one yellow card and his sarcastic clap of hands after the decision earned him an immediate second. Cristante had one more shot at scoring before being lifted from the pitch so 22-year-old Nicolas Haas can come on in the 71st minute.

The card-happy referee kept awarding bookings and in the 75th minute he reduced Milan to 10 men as well. It was actually the right decision, since Montolivo’s two-footed challenge was very dangerous, irresponsible, illegal and well-deserving of a straight red. Atalanta suddenly received an opportunity to get back into a game that it was unjustifiably losing anyway. And then it happened. 90 seconds into injury time, Andrea Masiello was at the end of a lovely cross by Ilicic. He headed the ball and Donnarumma looked to have his hands on it, but didn’t manage to keep it out. Another poor reaction by Milan’s goalkeeper, as it was the case in the cup final. It was a huge goal for Atalanta, as it dramatically increases its chances of Europa League qualification.