Milan hold nerve at Atalanta to stay on heels of perfect Napoli


Milan (AFP) – AC Milan stayed in touch with Serie A leaders Napoli on Sunday after coming away from Atalanta with a 3-2 win which maintains their unbeaten start to the season and underlines their title credentials.

Milan came out on top in a frenetic encounter to stay two points behind Napoli, whose 2-1 win at Fiorentina was their seventh in as many games so far this season, after a nervy ending in Bergamo which saw Atalanta pull back two late goals after going three down with 12 minutes remaining.

There are signs that a three-way title race is starting to take shape with Inter Milan a further two points back in third, while Roma are also lurking in fourth on 15 points following their 2-0 win over Empoli earlier on Sunday.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan went ahead almost straight from kick-off through Davide Calabria, and the hosts then launched a wave of attacks on the Rossoneri goal but found Mike Maignan in great form. 

The home crowd groaned in disbelief in the 20th minute when, after doing brilliantly to tip away Davide Zappacosta’s near post drive from the edge of the area, Frenchman Maignan then got a hand to Duvan Zapata’s bullet header from the subsequent corner.

And Sandro Tonali made the most of his goalkeeper’s fine display when he doubled Milan’s lead two minutes from half-time with his second Serie A goal of the season.

Tonali, who has had a brilliant start to the campaign for Milan, picked Remo Freuler’s pocket and then raced through unopposed on goal before calmly slotting past Juan Musso.

Milan kept a lid on Atalanta and should have added to their lead through Alexis Saelemaekers before Rafale Leao did curl home the third in the 78th minute.

Zapata’s 86th-minute penalty and a Mario Pasalic tap-in deep in stoppage time kept the game alive until the final whistle but Milan ran out deserved winners.

– 100 percent Napoli –

Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli have a perfect 21 points thanks to their come-from-behind victory at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, which came through strikes from Hirving Lozano and Amir Rrahmani either side of half-time.

It was a tough defeat for Fiorentina, who lost in a similar fashion to how they fell at home to Inter a few weeks back after deservedly taking the lead through Lucas Martinez Quarta.

Vincenzo Italiano’s side stay fifth on 12 points, nine behind Napoli and three away Roma in fourth.

“We suffered a bit after we went ahead, but we also had situations where we could have put ourselves 3-1 ahead which we didn’t manage to exploit,” said Spalletti to DAZN.

“We need to work on that because we will need to win some matches in which we’re truly up against it.”

Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was named in the Italy squad for the upcoming Nations League Final Four, sent Roma on their way against Empoli with his sixth goal in all competitions this term three minutes before half-time.

It came the day after the 25-year-old extended his contract with the club until 2026.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan made sure of the points for Jose Mourinho’s side two minutes after the restart with his second of the campaign, guiding the ball home after Guiglielmo Vicario had just managed to tip Tammy Abraham’s fierce drive onto the bar.

Bologna eased pressure on coach Sinisa Mihajlovic with a comfortable 3-0 win over Lazio which ended a worrying run of results and moved them up to ninth on 11 points.

Sampdoria sit 15th on six points, two fewer than 13th-placed Udinese after the pair drew 3-3 in one of two mid-afternoon matches.

Verona are also on eight points in 12th after stretching their unbeaten run under new coach Igor Tudor to four matches with a 4-0 crushing of Spezia.

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