AC Milan weathered a late Atalanta fightback to ensure they came away with all three points in a scintillating end to end game at the  Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Rafael Leao was once again the difference maker for AC Milan as they defeated Atalanta away from home in a pulsating encounter. The three points see Stefano Pioli’s side keep in touch with Napoli and Inter Milan at the top of the table.

The Rossoneri got off to the best of starts as Davide Calabria gave them the lead in the very first minute. A shocked Atalanta side regrouped and launched wave after wave of attack only to be repulsed.

Sandro Tonali, who put in his best performance in a Milan shirt to date then gave his side breathing space with a well-taken finish in the 42nd minute. The visitors headed into the break knowing full well that the two-goal cushion reflected their dominance of the game. Rafael Leao scored Milan’s third on the night in the 78th minute. Little did he or anyone else realize how crucial that goal would prove come full time.

Atalanta to their credit refused to throw in the towel and got their reward in the 86th minute when he received a penalty for a handball by substitute Junior Messias. Divan Zapata made no mistake from the spot to hand the home side their opener on the night.

Substitute Mario Pasalic scored his side’s second of the night in the fourth minute of stoppage time to set up a nervy finale. Stefano Pioli’s side did not implode in the final few seconds and held on for an impressive win.

Milan was certainly the better side on the night and the scoreline does flatter Atalanta to an extent. With 19 points from their first seven games, this is  Milan’s best start to a Serie A season since the 2003/04 campaign. Milan won the Serie A that year and it remains to be seen if history will repeat itself.

We at The Hard Tackle now take a look at how the Rossoneri players fared on the night.

Mike Maignan: 7/10

The Frenchman made three excellent stops on the night. He made three excellent stops to keep Milan in front in the first half. Atalanta are an offensive threat on their day and Maignan did well to ensure Milan stay ahead.

Davide Calabria: 8/10

A magnificent performance by the full-back who was up for the game from the kick-off whistle. Scored in the very first minute and set the tone for what was to come. Excelled in both facets of his role and once again showed why he is an important player for Milan.

Simon Kjaer: 7/10

An excellent return from injury for the Danish international. He was calm and assured at the back and marshalled the rearguard with poise.  Duvan Zapata caused him a few problems but the veteran held his own.

Fikayo Tomori: 7/10

Another impressive performance by the youngster who is steadily establishing himself as indispensable for the Rossoneri. Showed on the night that he was fully deserving of his England call up. Has certainly displayed his worth and is proving himself worthy of the faith put in him by the Italians.

Theo Hernandez: 7/10

Matched Calabria’s performance on the other flank and caused Atalanta plenty of problems. Got forward well and offered plenty of width to the Milan attack. The Frenchman showed off his delivery skills and also registered an assist for himself.

Sandro Tonali: 8/10

A stellar performance by the Italian midfielder who was everywhere on the night. Displayed intelligence in his decision making and was not afraid to put in the work needed. Doubled Milan’s lead on the night with a well-taken effort and played a key role in the Rossoneri winning the midfield battle. Easily among his best performances for the club.

Franck Kessie: 7/10

A much-improved performance from the Ivory Coast star who let his side down midweek against Atletico. He made a number of interceptions and clearances that stopped the Atalanta attacks in their tracks. Although Kessie displayed sloppiness at times, he recovered well to ensure Milan went unpunished.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 6/10

The Belgian has been a key player for the club in recent weeks but endured a comparatively quieter night this time around. Helped Milan keep their shape and held his own on the night. A solid yet unspectacular night that also saw him miss a header from point-blank range.

Brahim Diaz: 6/10

One of the midfielder’s quiet displays. Atalanta to their credit marshalled him well on the night. While it did open up room for his teammates to run into, it also largely neutralized his presence on the field. Has played a lot of football for Milan in recent weeks and the fatigue showed towards the end.

Rafael Leao: 7/10

The Portuguese winger was not at his electrifying best but turned up the heat when his team needed him to. Caused Atalanta problems on the left flank and was on hand to drive in what proved to be a decisive third goal on the night. Continues to be the difference-maker for the Rossoneri of late.

Ante Rebic: 7/10

The Croat led the line well and helped bring the other Milan attackers into play. Created space for his teammates to run into and was not afraid to put in the hard work. Should and could have done more with the ball at his feet.

SUBSTITUTES

Junior Messias: 5/10

A poor night for the debutant who had a role to play in both of Atalanta’s goals. Gave away a clumsy penalty for a handball before losing his duel with Zapata for Atalanta’s second. Hopefully, better days are around the corner for the Brazilian midfielder.

Ismael Bennacer: 6/10

Replaced the imperious Tonali in the 80th minute. Held his composure despite a late Atalanta fight back and helped his side see out the game.

Fode Ballo-Toure: 6/10

Replaced Hernandez late on and slotted in well. Did little worth writing and was alert when called upon.

Pietro Pellegri: N/A

Replaced Leao in the final few minutes as Milan looked to run down the clock.

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