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AC Milan ensured their progress into the Champions League with a 2-0 win thanks to a brace from midfield dynamo Frank Kessie. The result also meant that Milan finished second behind Inter, displacing their opponents on the night.

With Atalanta having already secured their Champions League participation, AC Milan had to win to make sure of their place amongst Europe’s elite next season. Alexis Saelemaekers got the first chance in the third minute as he skied his effort. That was the only chance in the opening exchanges as both teams looked to break free in midfield.



That was easier said than done as neither team wanted to concede first. Two excellent defensive shapes meant that the centre of the pitch was a quagmire. Though it was Atalanta who were looking the more threatening as the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic had dulled Milan’s attack. Pioli’s side were resorting to long balls over the top in the hopes of catching the defenders out. 



The game hardly saw any attacking chances fall to either team. Leao thought he had earned a foul as he knocked the ball past Romero . The defender’s challenge was deemed not a foul which infuriated Pioli to no end. But the away side were given a penalty five minutes before half time after some lovely play.



Theo Hernandez played a one-two with Saelemakers before being fouled by Maehle as he charged at the goal. Kessie, who had been present all over the pitch, stroked the penalty home as Gollini stood still to give Milan the lead going into halftime and a more secure footing on the Champions League places.

Gasperini brought on their top scorer Luis Muriel in the hopes of salvaging the game. Atalanta started brightly but Milan again were rock solid at the back. It was Zapata who flashed his shot across the face of the goal in the home side’s first chance of the second half.



Malinvosky got the first shot on target of La Dea in the 65th minute. However, it was Milan who came closest to doubling their lead. Substitute Meite’s darting run found Leao run in behind and the striker’s chipped shot hit the post before being cleared.

It was certainly not looking to be Atalanta’s night as the top scorers of Italy were finding it hard to just get their shots away. The entire Milan team stuck to their task of frustrating the hosts by staying up near the corner flag. The game then totally boiled over.



In the 92nd minute, Gosens’ handball gave Milan another penalty. Then an almighty brouhaha ensued with De Roon sent off. Kessie converted his second penalty of the night to end Milan’s seven year exile from the Champions League in style.

Here are our three key takeaways: 



Gasperini’s side looked the more likely to score throughout the opening half. They time and again pegged back the Milan defenders with Pioli’s men struggling to assert their creativity. But the killer instinct in the final third was clearly lacking.

Milan kept their shape tight and got very close in marking Atalanta’s key threats of Zapata and Malinovsky, the latter who was handed the Most Valuable Trophy before kickoff. As the half looked to be ending 0-0, Maehle’s rash challenge on Hernandez gave Kessie the chance to make it 1-0. He calmly scored and Milan seemed well on their way to Europe.



Even bringing on Luis Muriel did little to make it seem like Atalanta could get the equaliser. Milan defended stoutly while Donnarumma caught everything that came into the box. They just were not able to link up as they would have liked which consigned them to their sixth defeat of the season.



Missing two key pieces in their attack, Milan struggled to match up against Atalanta’s defenders. They were reliant on passes over the top and utilising the pace of Leao and Diaz. The former had been trying to run in behind but was stifled well.

Just as the game seemed to be heading for a draw at halftime, a rare Milan attack saw Hernandez being fouled in the box. Kessie gave the away side the lead, which was hardly deserved since they had been comfortably second best in terms of scoring intent.



The second half saw them continuing the good work defensively as Atalanta struggled to create chances. Leao even had the chance to make it 2-0 but his dink over the keeper clattered off the post. But in the end that did not matter as Milan held onto record their fifth away win on the trot.



The Rossoneri finished behind their arch-rivals and will compete in the Champions League once more. Atalanta who were already present there, will finish third after a pretty insipid display at home. Both teams have earned some well earned break and it will be interesting to see how they compete in Europe next season. Though it is unlikely for Milan to challenge for the Serie A title so soon, one can count on Atalanta to keep being everyone’s favourite second team in Italy

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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