AC Milan secured their place in next season’s Europa League with a 1-1 draw with Atalanta, as La Dea rescued a late point amidst a torrential downpour at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on Sunday.
Franck Kessie’s strike against his former club on the hour mark was enough to secure victory and give the Rossoneri an unassailable four point gap over eighth-place Fiorentina with one game left to play.
Atalanta squandered a number of opportunities and played the final half hour with 10 men following Rafael Toloi’s red card. Milan levelled the numbers with 15 minutes remaining, as Riccardo Montolivo was sent off for a two-footed tackle, before Andrea Masiello secured a last gasp point with a stoppage time header.
Milan started with intent and were awarded an early corner, from which Leonardo Bonucci came close with a headed effort.
The Rossoneri looked comfortable on the ball and their neat play almost fashioned a clear opening for Kessie against his former club.
Suso cut inside from the left and his low pass was backheeled through the legs of Mattia Caldara into the box by Nikola Kalinic. Kessie tracked the move and timed his run well, but was outmuscled by Masiello as he shaped to shoot.
With just shy of 20 minutes gone, Atalanta threatened to go ahead. Ignazio Abate was booked for a poor tackle on Alejandro Gomez in La Dea’s half, and Masiello’s freekick broke the offside trap.
Gomez got to the byline and saw his cut back was cleared behind by Alessio Romagnoli, and the resulting corner fell to the feet of Musa Barrow. The teenager rifled a low shot in but his effort was deflected wide.
At the other end, the visitors continued to knock on the door and looked a threat from set-pieces. Marten De Roon was booked for clipping Suso, and the Spaniard dusted himself off to send in a dipping freekick from the right. Bonaventura nodded the ball on, and Atalanta required a smart Toloi clearance over the bar to prevent Kalinic from applying the finishing touch at the back post.
Atalanta burst into life late in the first half, and a poor Abate touch almost allowed them to break the deadlock. The right-back prodded the ball into the path of Cristante in his own box, and the former Milan midfielder’s effort cannoned off the back of Ricardo Rodriguez.
The ball remained loose however, and it was Bonucci’s turn to put his body on the line and block Freuler’s effort, before Rodriguez stepped out to clear off Cristante’s toes.
La Dea squandered a golden opportunity to break the deadlock early in the first half and contrived to miss when it was easier to score. Firstly, Cristante controlled the ball and released a snapshot from the edge of the box, which deflected off Bonucci and into the side netting.
From the resulting corner, the 23-year-old rose highest to force a low one-handed save from Gianluigi Donnarumma, yet Caldara somehow poked the rebound wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.
Against the run of play Milan took the lead. Kessie chested the ball down and backheeled for Montolivo, and after a pass for Kalinic was cleared back into his path, Kessie rifled into the bottom corner with a first time effort from outside the penalty area.
¡PERO QUE GOLAZO METISTE FRANCK!????????????#AtalantaMilan 0-1
¡Se cumplio la ley del ex!????
Franck Kessie comenzo la jugada dando un taco para luego terminar la jugada el mismo con un misil que fue un gran golazo??????????
¡TODO UN CABALLERO! No celebro el gol por respeto???? pic.twitter.com/H5mdFcDoDO
— Planeta Milan????????? (@PlanetaMilan) May 13, 2018
The Orobici’s task was made harder as Toloi was dismissed on 65 minutes. The Brazilian was initially booked for a tackle on Kalinic, before sarcastically applauding the decision and immediately receiving a second booking.
Atalanta again squandered a simple chance soon after, in a similar to fashion to Caldara’s miss. Gomez drove into the box and forced a low save, but Donnarumma could only parry into the feet of Cristante. Although further out than Caldara had been, the Italian international also sliced wide.
Milan were reduced to 10 men with a quarter of an hour remaining, as Montolivo caught Gomez with a poor two-footed lunge. The veteran had come on as a half-time substitute and only lasted 35 minutes.
The hosts committed men forward in search of a late equaliser, and came close as Robin Goosens’ acrobatic volley from a chipped Gomez pass whistled past the post.
As the match entered stoppage time, the home side drew level and kept their hopes of European qualification alive. A pinpoint Josip Ilicic cross was met by Masiello at the far post to peg Milan back at the death.
— FrSerieA Goals (@FrSerieAGoals) May 13, 2018
Milan are assured of entry into the Europa League, whilst Atalanta have a three point and seven goal advantage over Fiorentina going into the final round of fixtures.