AC Milan overcame the odds to defeat Atalanta 2-0 away and also qualified for the Champions League next season. Rossoneri largely played as an inferior side and punished Atalanta on their mistake as two of the goals were penalties and scored by Franck Kessie. Here are the major observations.
Milan in the Champions League after seven years
Milan’s wait for European luxury is officially over as they are now in the Champions League, having last played in the competition in the 2013/14 season. Despite a solid start for the season, Milan slumped a little midway, and hence their place in the top-four remained unknown until the final matchday. Although Atalanta were deemed the favourites, Milan never hastened in their solid defensive display to eventually get over the line.
Milan’s solid defensive performance made things happen.
Stefano Pioli was seemingly clear with his tactics from the beginning – allow Atalanta to enjoy much of the possession and attack at the right time. And they never put a foot wrong in execution as Milan earned a comprehensive win in the end. The stats also depicted Milan’s defensive masterclass as Atalanta enjoyed 71% of possession while taking only 1 shot on target.
Defensive errors proved more costly
Atlanta made some silly fouls inside their defensive third, which eventually led to penalties. For the first goal, Joakim Maehle was at fault as he committed an unwanted foul on left-back Theo Hernandez while Robin Gosens’ terrible handball allowed Milan to secure the winning goal. To make matters worse, midfielder Martin de Roon was shown a straight red card.
Atalanta lacked precision in the final third
Gasperini’s men were clearly the better side for the more significant parts of the game but they lacked the magical touch in the final third. Despite having two of Serie A’s best strikers in Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel, they hardly troubled Gianluigi Donnarumma. Zapata struggled to cope with the demanding presence of Simon Kjaer, and Muriel was only called on after the break.
Kessie among Europe’s best penalty takers.
Chelsea’s Jorginho, Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United are often associated with taking penalties precisely, and the time has come for Kessie to be considered in that list. The 24-year-old has been Milan’s primary penalty taker and hasn’t put a foot wrong in the execution. Furthermore, Kessie has been a key cog in Pioli’s midfield this season.
Pioli deserves credit for transforming Milan
Pioli’s appointment was questioned a lot, but he has proved his naysayers wrong by transforming Milan into a winning unit. Pioli came at the time when the club was in their transition but helped them to secure a place in the Champions League in the space of fewer than two years – the thing his predecessors failed to do over the years. Blended with the right balance of exciting young talents and seasoned campaigners, Rossoneri are ready to make their presence feel in the Champions League next season.