Defending champions AC Milan earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Atalanta on Sunday night to maintain their unbeaten start in Serie A.
AC Milan came from behind but were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at the Gewiss Stadium against Atalanta on Sunday night as Ismael Bennacer cancelled out a first-half goal by Ruslan Malinovskyi in Bergamo. The eagerly-anticipated meeting between Atalanta and Milan, which promised to be an exciting, entertaining encounter, turned out to be a scrappy share of the spoils.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, who started for the home side despite links with Tottenham, broke the deadlock against the run of play with a powerful shot from outside the box after he was left in acres of space. Milan dominated possession and the tempo of the game throughout but lacked the end product, which arrived midway through the second half when Ismael Bennacer fired home an equaliser off the post.
It was quite a strange sequence of events in the build-up to Milan’s leveler. Ismael Bennacer let fly from 25 yards out, and Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso dodged it low to his left, with the ball appearing to fall out for a corner. But substitute Alexis Saelemaekers had other ideas, as he hunted it down and fed the ball back to Bennacer who skipped inside a defender and curled a shot into the bottom corner to restore the parity.
There were not any real tangible chances for either side to snatch it in the dying embers of the game, so they had to settle for a draw, which was a fair result on the balance of play. Having said that, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta looked more pragmatic than in prior seasons. The Hard Tackle now rates the performances of Stefano Pioli’s troops in what was a feisty and intense early-season encounter in Bergamo.
⚽️ @malinovskyi18's beautiful strike is cancelled out by @IsmaelBennacer's equally magnificent one with both @Atalanta_BC and @acmilan splitting the points 🤝#SerieA #AtalantaMilan pic.twitter.com/Oh3X1xBtSi
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) August 21, 2022
Mike Maignan: 6.5/10
Maignan had little to do on Sunday, as Atalanta never tested him well enough. The AC Milan No. 1 just faced just two shots on target, one of which was a routine save. He could not have done much about the goal, as he was in a position to stop Malinovskyi’s strike, but the ball took an unlucky deflection for the goal. His long balls were to the point, and usually found their target (7/9).
Theo Hernandez: 7/10
Hernandez was a major attacking force for Milan via his forays forward, but he was equally effective in the defensive phase. He should have had an assist for the key pass he laid for substitute Junior Messias. With his runs in behind Hans Hateboer, he was a ghostly presence, with Rafael Leao also deciding to go inside. The 24-year-old also won all four ground duels he contested and attempted four long balls with 100% accuracy. A solid all-around performance.
Pierre Kalulu: 6/10
Kalulu’s form dipped in Bergamo after his outstanding performance against Udinese on the opening weekend. He did quite well with his passing, and that helped Milan in times of trouble on turnovers. But he lost a fair share of his contested duels (2/9). There were also a few iffy moments, but they did not do any harm in the end.
Fikayo Tomori: 7/10
The Englishman organised the defence well as Milan maintained a high line. It was a solid yet unspectacular performance from Tomori, who kept things simple at the back. His defensive positioning was perfect on the day as he nullified the threat from Duvan Zapata. A standard display.
Davide Calabria: 7/10
Calabria locked down the right side for the majority of the match as Milan’s back four had a solid night. He put in the work and made a handful of important tackles and interceptions in the defensive third. He maintained an advanced position to provide a presence upfield, although he was rarely a threat. He should have been braver in offensive areas.
Sandro Tonali: 7/10
There were some positives and some negatives in this game from Tonali, who is finding his rhythm again following his return from a minor injury. He played the role of deep-lying midfielder to good effect, pulling the strings with his razor-sharp passing. But he could have done with more penetration in the attacking third, given Milan’s domination. He let fly his shot wide early in the match. Tonali had a fine game, otherwise.
Ismael Bennacer: 8/10
The clear standout in the game. The game-changing effort came from Algerian international Bennacer, who took a touch inside onto his left foot and blasted one in off the inside of the post from about 15 yards out to restore parity.
ismael bennacer vs atalanta:
90 minutes played
74 accurate passes
8 chances created
1 big chance created
2 shots on target
2 successful dribbles
2 accurate crosses
6 accurate long balls
he is a defensive midfielder. 😳 pic.twitter.com/kgmuvD2tFW
— theexplicitgame (@theexplicitgam) August 21, 2022
One of the most underrated complete midfielders in Europe at the moment, the 24-year-old had the most touches (101), shots on target (2), key passes (2), and the highest percentage of successful dribbles than anyone on the pitch. Bennacer has been sensational since taking over Franck Kessie’s box-to-box role, and he produced another stellar showing here.
Rafael Leao: 6/10
Leao caused panic stations in opposition backline with his pace and strength but could not make it count with a goal or an assist. His influence waned as the match progressed, while his defensive contributions were minimal. He could do so much more, given his ability to beat his marker effortlessly, but here he was a frustrating watch, as the end-product was clearly lacking, with erratic shots not troubling Musso enough.
Brahim Diaz: 6/10
After his phenomenal showing against Udinese, Diaz took a step backward against Atalanta. He failed to generate any meaningful chances or take a shot himself, managing just 25 touches in 58 minutes before being hooked off the pitch by Pioli in favour of De Ketelaere. Zero shots crosses, or dribbles paint a bleak picture.
Junior Messias: 6/10
Messias was involved in a few good moves in the first half, but that was about it as he looked off-color for a second successive game. He failed to convert an easy chance from close range, lacked creativity when on the ball, and annoyingly opted to hang onto the ball for too long on numerous occasions. Hooked off in the 66th minute after he faded out of the game.
Ante Rebic: 5/10
Much like Brahim Diaz, Rebic was a shadow of his best self against Atalanta. His first touch let him down again and again, with nothing really coming off for the Croatian striker. Stefano Pioli replaced Rebic with Olivier Giroud early in the second half.
Olivier Giroud: 4/10
Giroud did a decent job after coming on for Rebic around the hour mark. Given that Milan needed him as a focal point in the final third, that allowed the visitors to gain some momentum just before Bennacer’s goal.
Charles De Ketelaere: 6/10
🔴 Charles #DeKetelaere vs. Atalanta:
• 38 minutes
• 71% passing accuracy
• 1 key pass/big chance created
• 2/2 ground duels won
• 1/2 aerial duels won
— CDK90 👑 (@DeKetelaere_HQ) August 21, 2022
Charles De Ketelaere had a few nice flicks and touches, producing one exquisite pass for Tonali, who forced a save from Musso. There was some apparent rustiness as he was sloppy with his passes on a few occasions. Still, he is a sensational talent who can provide the creative spark that Milan are currently lacking.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 7/10
Really bright in the later stages, Saelemaekers got a deserved assist for Bennacer’s goal, as he kept the ball alive near the corner flag. He should start the next game ahead of Messias.
Divock Origi: N/A
Although Origi was subbed on for Leao in the 65th minute, there is nothing much to write about the Belgian, who only took 12 touches and fired zero shots. Slotting in an unfavourable left-wing position, he was also guilty of not tracking back enough.
Alessandro Florenzi: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.