New Delhi: A goal to Kaka for AC Milan just 10 minutes from time, proved to be enough for the Rossoneri to record a less than convincing 1-0 victory in Bergamo on Sunday.
Pre-match and team news
The contest will mark the 50th meeting between Atalanta and AC Milan in Bergamo, and what an intriguing contest it should be. The Bergamaschi have had a respectable start to the campaign, as they are in 8th place, with 13 points to their name, whilst the Rossoneri are two places higher, despite sharing the same number of points as their opponents.
Atalanta are undefeated at home this season, and will be looking to extend that streak with another victory against Milan, whilst the Rossoneri will be desperate to close the gap between themselves and their cross town rivals Inter Milan, with a much needed victory this afternoon.
As expected, Ancelotti has handed Marco Borriello a start up front for the Rossoneri, with Kaka and Ronaldinho set to play in behind him. Gigi Del Neri will start with Sergio Floccari as the lone striker in attack, with Cristiano Doni playing the attacking midfield role behind the striker.
The visitors got the play underway at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri D’Italia, and looked confident from the onset, as they attempted to create something from the first play of the match.
After just two minutes however, it was the home side that conjured up the first chance on goal, as Cristiano Doni’s header from all of six yards, was hit straight at Christian Abbiati in goals for AC Milan. It was a wonderful build up play that certainly deserved a better finish.
The Bergamaschi began to take full control of the play from here, as Milan failed to adjust to the home side’s attacking style of play. The home crowd were on the edge of their seats, as Floccari was played through one on one with Abbiati, however the keeper managed to get their first, and thankfully for the visitors, the score remained scoreless.
Just one minute later, Kaka put Borriello through on goals, and the Italian made no mistake, to give his side the lead. Unfortunately for their sake though, the linesman’s flag was quickly raised, as the Italian international was well offside.
On 11 minutes, Bellini did brilliantly well for the home side to win the ball, and play it to an unmarked Doni in the area. The captain took his time, and failed to eventually get a shot on, as Mathieu Flamini saved the day for Milan.
Ronaldinho tried to inspire his team mates as he made his was into the area, however superb defending from Talamonti denied the former Barcelona man a chance at anything. Atalanta were well and truly on top by this stage, as they looked extremely solid all over the park.
Ronnie was in the thick of the action again, just moments later, as superb work from fellow Brazilian Kaka, saw him with an opportunity to strike, from all of 18 yards. His mistimed shot however, meant that no contact was made with the ball, leaving the home side to easily clear.
Doni was leading well from the front, and continued to cause havoc, as his powerful drive from inside the area was well blocked by Daniele Bonera, and once again the follow up shot was poor, this time taken by Padoin. It was all Atalanta in the opening 20 minutes, as the Rossoneri continued to struggle.
Ancelotti’s men tried to get themselves back in to the match, as they denied the opposition possession of the ball, however on 25 minutes, Cigarini took a glorious free kick for his side that eventually struck Doni, and had it not been for Ambrosini’s header and clearance that followed, the Bergamaschi could easily have taken the advantage.
Atalanta continued to press, as Milan simply had no answers, and so after just half an hour, Ancelotti brought on the experienced Emerson, to replace the former Arsenal man Flamini, who seemed to be struggling from a thigh injury.
The pace of the home side’s attacking movements seemed to be too much for the centre back pairing of Maldini and Bonera to handle, as Doni got on the end of another wonderful build up play from his side. His strike was easily dealt with by Abbiati, who undoubtedly was the difference between the two sides at this stage of the contest.
Amazingly at the 35 minute mark, Manfredini failed to beat Abbiati, as he found himself in possession of the ball, and unmarked at the back post. Guarente’s cross was superb, as it managed to bounce in favour of the unmarked Manfredini; however the midfielder opted to pass with his header rather than shoot, as the score remained 0-0.
Immediately after, Floccari surged forward with real purpose, as he had two defenders to contend with. He attempted to dance and dazzle his way around the ever so talented Maldini, however the Milan captain used his body well, to deny the striker. The Atalanta players and their fans were desperate for a penalty; however the referee wanted nothing of it, and called for play to continue.
The home fans were pleading for the second time in a matter of minutes, after Zambrotta flattened Doni in the area. The referee deemed that Zambrotta had eyes only for the ball, which he did, and so once again nothing was given.
Guarente picked up the first caution of the match, as Milan found themselves on a rare attack. His foul on Kaka gave the Rossoneri a free kick in a dangerous position, and ultimately proved to be their best chance of the opening half, despite Jankulovski’s free kick deflecting off the wall.
Following the caution to Guarente, Gattuso got in on the act for some back chat, and picked up a yellow card of his own. His side however were awarded a free kick, in a dangerous crossing area, and once again failed to take any advantage of it.
The visitors were simply outplayed for the large majority of the first half in Bergamo, and somewhat undeservedly, Ancelotti’s men went in to the half time interval on level terms.
Somewhat surprisingly, neither coach made a change at the break, as the home side got play underway in the second half. It was clear from the onset that the home side had picked up from where they left off in the first half, as they just did not allow their opponents to get into the contest.
Ferreira Pinto had the first quality chance of the second half, and it came at the 50 minute mark, as his powerful drive from inside the area was well dealt with by Abbiati. The keeper’s double fist away from goal, eventually ended back with Ferreira Pinto, but Ambrosini’s interception was enough for Milan to live another day.
Ronaldinho picked up the ball in the centre of midfield just moments later, and beat a few opponents, before playing it through to Borriello. The Italian international had a strike on goal, however it was well wide and no threat to a relatively anonymous Fernandino Coppola in goals.
After 55 minutes, Bonera became the second Milan player to go into the referee’s book, following a poor challenge on Floccari. And just moments later, Emerson produced an incredible ball to find Gianluca Zambrotta at the back post; however the right back’s timing was poor, as the Rossoneri’s best chance of the match came to nothing.
Both sides failed to produce any serious threat on goal for a period of around 10 minutes or so, however it was evident that the Rossoneri in particular, were desperate to try and create something, as they had failed to get a single shot on target by this stage of the game.
Doni’s second glaring opportunity of the match came on 65 minutes, following a tremendous knock down from Floccari. As was the case in the first half however, the captain’s effort was hit straight at Abbiati, and the keeper had no problem with making another save.
Following a disappointing performance, Ronaldinho was taken from the field to the jeers of the home fans just minutes later, as Ancelotti brought on the young Brazilian Pato to try and change his side’s way of play.
Cigarini was injured after 72 minutes, following a poor challenge on Pato, and as a result was taken from the field on a stretcher, whilst receiving a yellow card for his troubles. The former Torino man, Diego De Ascentis was his replacement.
Five minutes later, Jankulovski was well and truly beaten by Ferreira Pinto on the right, as the Atalanta midfielder surged forward with real purpose. Jankulovski opted to challenge the midfielder from behind, resulting in a yellow card, meaning that he will miss Milan’s next Serie A fixture against Siena midweek.
Unbelievably on 80 minutes, Milan’s first real sight of goal for the match resulted in Kaka finding the back of the net. Borriello’s quick thinking to cut the ball back to the Brazilian, was enough for Kaka to awkwardly, but effectively guide the ball into the back of the net.
Atalanta kept at it following the goal, as they tested Abbiati with shots from Ferreira Pinto and substitute Alessio Cerci; however the keeper was a rock in goals once again, as he continued to frustrate his opponents.
Unfortunately for Milan, Gattuso seemed forced to withdraw from the field with less than five minutes of play remaining, as he hobbled off with what looked to be a slight hamstring injury. However after a touch of magic spray, the hard man was back on his feet and back in the action.
Just moments after re-entering the field of play, Gattuso’s hobbling antics had resumed, as he was replaced by Luca Antonini, with Ancelotti making his third and final change of the match.
Time was running out for the home side, as they threw all of their numbers forward for a set piece. It came to nothing however, making it seem all the more likely that Milan would unexpectedly take all three points away from the contest.
That is exactly what they did, as the referee’s whistle on 94 minutes brought an end to an entertaining game of football. All it took was just one momentary lapse of concentration by the Atalanta back four, and as a result, Milan will take home all three points back home with them.
With Inter slipping up against Genoa, Milan now trail their cross town rival by just one point, as they now find themselves in 4th place in the standings.
Atalanta (4-4-1-1): Coppola; Garics, Talamonti, Manfredini, Bellini; Ferreira Pinto, Cigarini, Guarente, Padoin; Doni; Floccari
Milan (4-3-2-1): Abbiati; Zambrotta, Bonera, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Flamini, Ambrosini; Ronaldinho, Kaka; Borriello
80’ Kaka (Milan)