Atalanta 2, Milan 3: Devil-May-Care

Milan are hell-bent on winning. They went to Bergamo with a desire to take all three points, and they didn't let their youth or recklessness stop them. Atalanta made some costly early errors, and still fought back until the final whistle, but in the end, Milan got the win against a very tough opponent to remain unbeaten going into the international break, and also gave Ibrahimović a great birthday gift.

So exciting, but a little reckless on the night

The team that Pioli has created was born from the ashes of Atalanta's 5-0 decimation of Milan in 2019. From that lowest point, this team has been forged through COVID, injuries, and unfair referee decisions to create this intense mentality and sense of unity that we saw again tonight. Literally, from kickoff, they attacked, with Theo Hernández immediately sending a ball forward for Calabria, who took a shot. Musso spilled that, then our captain went around him and scored. 1-0 Milan. 28 seconds was all it took to put Milan in front. 

The frenetic intensity just kept going from there, with chances on both ends. Both Maignan and Musso had the highest save percentages going into this match, so there was some great goalkeeping on display as well. Obviously, there was also some great defending, including a Tomori tackle on Pessina in the 21st. Replays show that he got all ball, but Pessina was injured on the play, and had to be subbed off, which is never good to see.

28 seconds

The yellow cards came out beginning in the 40th, with De Roon getting his obligatory card for a foul on Theo Hernández, and Brahim Díaz getting a yellow two minutes later for a shirt pull. The next minute saw Tonali score from a Freuler assist, a costly error for the man from Bergamo. 2-0 Milan. For diehard Atalanta fans, these goals probably hurt a little more.

While many current Milan fans have jumped on the rivalry bandwagon after the loss to Atalanta in 2019 and a few media clips and social media tantrums from fellow fans, there actually is a strong rivalry between the two clubs. However, that pales in comparison to the rivalry between Brescia and Atalanta, which goes back over 900 years. Calabria is from Brescia, and Tonali played for Brescia, so I would expect Atalanta fans to be particularly bitter about those two goals.

Poetry in motion

After the half, there was more recklessness and less beautiful football. Tomori earned a yellow for shoving in the 52nd, and overall, Milan players grew less respectful of the referee's decisions. Even Pioli was seen talking to the fourth official in the 59th after Theo Hernández was whistled for a foul on Zappacosta. 

It is hard to blame them for not trusting the referee after Wednesday's debacle, which saw both Çakir (head ref) and Bitigen (the VAR official) suspended by UEFA. Too little too late for Milan, who lost the match because of their calls, but just because the referees in that match were awful and then punished does not mean that you get to stop trusting or respecting all referees. Di Bello is a very capable referee, and I personally believe that many Serie A referees are more skilled technically than many UEFA referees, who spend most of their time refereeing in leagues with players who are also less skilled. It is also embarrassing when Milan players dive, complain, harass, and swarm the referees, and there was far too much of that in this match.

Kjaer kept Zapata frustrated, there was no need to be frustrated about the ref

Both teams were tiring and making errors after an intense and fast-paced match, and in the 60th, Saelemaekers almost took advantage of that by being unmarked in the box and sending in a point-blank header, but Musso made no mistake and saved it. In the 74th, Messias was subbed on for Brahim Díaz, who was definitely frustrated. This was the Brazilian's first callup and first appearance for Milan, and it became a memorable one.

Just five minutes later, he started the play that led to the third goal, which was assisted by Theo Hernández. Messias wisely did not interfere in that pass to Leão, who just sent the ball screaming into the far top corner of the net. 3-0 Milan. Pioli brought on Bennacer and Ballo-Touré, and although Atalanta were gaining momentum again, it seemed like Milan might keep the clean sheet. Until the 83rd.

Absolutely stunning.

That was when Messias' debut took a downturn. Di Bello was notified by the VAR booth of a review on a play just inside the area. After stopping play, he went to the monitor to see for himself, and it showed that yes, Messias did handle he ball just inside the box. Atalanta were given the penalty, and Messias shown a yellow for his infraction. Zapata stepped up and converted the penalty, now it was Atalanta 1, Milan 3.

Leão got an unnecessary yellow in the 88th, and was subbed off two minutes later for Pellegri. Pioli seemed less than congratulatory for the goal, likely a bit disappointed about the yellow. With tired legs and minds, our defense had a serious lapse of focus which allowed Pasalic to score in the 94th. Now it was Atalanta 2, Milan 3. Kjaer and other Milan players were furious, saying that Messias had been fouled in the buildup to the goal, but I think Di Bello called it consistently with the rest of the match. Pioli disagreed, and it earned him a yellow card just before the final whistle.

An eventful debut for our fairy tale Brazilian

Milan were also victorious in Bergamo back in May, when their 2-0 win earned them second place and Champions League qualification. But as Pioli pointed out, they played better tonight, despite conceding the two goals, especially against such a strong opponent. However, they were quite reckless, with 15 fouls, four of those yellow cards (plus Pioli's.) Winning the match tonight earned us three points, but earning unnecessary cards can cost us points in future matches due to suspensions. Going forward, these young players are going to need to curb their devil-may-care attitude. But for tonight, they can celebrate an important win, remaining unbeaten in the league, and second place on the table.

This post inspired by the music of INXS's "Devil Inside"

Atalanta 2, Milan 3: Devil-May-Care Atalanta 2, Milan 3: Devil-May-Care Reviewed by Elaine on 8:51 PM Rating: 5
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