An impressive first half performance from Atalanta was not enough to seal all three points as Inter will be relatively pleased to escape Bergamo with a point having been run ragged by their hosts in the opening 45 minutes.
Atalanta came into the meeting with just 14 fit outfield players who had started a Serie A game this season, while Inter had never left the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia without scoring since 1992, but on the balance of the game and the first half in particular it will be the hosts who feel the more aggrieved to not take maximum points.
From the first whistle Atalanta looked to get at their visitors. Nineteen-year-old Musa Barrow, making his full Serie A debut, was almost set through by Marten de Roon. From a resulting corner Mattia Caldara found space in the box but volleyed over with just 60 seconds played.
Atalanta should have been ahead on five minutes. Papu Gomez and Bryan Cristante beautifully exchanged passes on the edge of Inter’s box and the captain was clear. He looked to find the near corner but shot wide when he really should have made the net bulge.
Rafael Toloi audaciously attempted a bicycle kick on the edge of Inter’s box as Barrow’s pace continued to leave the Biscione’s defence looking unsettled before Rafinha had the visitors’ first attempt from range. Barrow again threatened before 20 minutes were played as he got beyond the defence and forced a save from Samir Handanovic.
The frustration of isolation began to get to Mauro Icardi midway through the half, leading the Argentinian to drop deep in search of possession before embarking on a directionless forward run that was straight into a less-than-welcoming Atalanta backline.
Remo Freuler was next to hit Handanovic. The Swiss powered forward and shot from the edge of the area when picking out Barrow might have been the better option. Barrow again came close as Gomez picked him out and an excellent header looked destined for the corner but for a great save from Handanovic.
Inter’s only two real chances of the half came on the counterattack as Rafinha first and then Roberto Gagliardini set Perisic through only for him to first hit Etrit Berisha and second fire just wide.
The second half started rather expectedly slower than the 45 minutes that preceded it, but again Atalanta came close first. A corner evaded everyone and eventually found its way to Andrea Masiello whose volley was deflected wide.
Andreas Cornelius arrived at the break for Barrow and Atalanta’s game, as a result, seemed to suffer without the pace and persistent pressing from the Gambian. Something of an anti-Barrow, Cornelius brought more of a physical presence and target, but far less of a moveable body and their attacking channels reduced with his arrival and his absence was definitely felt.
Davide Santon tried his luck on the hour mark. Cutting in from the left the full-back hit one from range but his effort was always curling wide. Rafinha had another chance for the visitors in the box but fired over as the ball was pulled back into his path.
Luciano Spalletti’s side desperately went in search of a goal in the game’s final moments and even threw on Yann Karamoh as their hosts had tired considerably, but Masiello and co. put their bodies on the line to protect Berisha’s goal.
Atalanta too had a couple of half-chances, with Hans Hateboer firing wayward in the 93rd minute.