A hat trick by Filippo Inzaghi allowed Milan to storm past Atalanta at San Siro, although it was a harsh scoreline for the Bergamaschi.
Milan 3-0 Atalanta
Milan continued their quest for a Champions League spot as they hosted mid-table side Atalanta at San Siro. The Rossoneri played in a 4-3-1-2 formation with David Beckham, who has managed to secure his stay at the club at least until the end of the season, behind Alexandre Pato and Filippo Inzaghi in attack.
Meanwhile, Atalanta played in a 4-4-1-1 system with Simone Padoin behind Gianvito Plasmati up front.
It did not take long for the home side to take control, and in the 7th minute they took the lead thanks to Inzaghi. The prolific striker finished off a long move with a nice left-footed volley on a low cross by Marek Jankulovski from the left wing.
The home side responded a minute later with an interesting run into the area by Jaime Valdes, but Mathieu Flamini managed to stop the Chilean midfielder.
On the subsequent counterattack, Pato made himself dangerous as he received near the area and fired a powerful shot from 20 meters, but goalkeeper Andrea Consigli was able to hang on to it.
Milan looked a lot more determined and aggressive than in their recent matches. In the 18th minute, Beckham played a superb pass to Pato from inside his own half, and the Brazilian controlled it well but Consigli came out with the right timing to clear the ball away.
The English superstar wreaked havoc again four minutes later, when he played another great cross into the area for Inzaghi that was cleared by Leonardo Talamonti, but only as far as Pato who came close to scoring after taking the ball on the bounce.
On the half hour mark, Christian Abbiati was called into serious action for the first time for Milan, as defender Gianpaolo Bellini fired a dangerous low shot after a poor clearence by the Rossoneri’s defence.
Three minutes later the home side came close to doubling their lead as Pato played a great pass to Jankulovski, who tried a left footed shot that was very well saved by Consigli.
Just before break, Abbiati had to make another fine save to preserve Milan’s lead, tipping Plasmati’s header on a cross from the left by Padoin over the bar in the 41st minute.
The first half ended with Milan on a 1-0 lead, but Atalanta might have deserved something more after creating a few clear cut chances to score.
No changes were made by either coach during half time. The home side started strongly, and in the 51st minute Pato found himself alone in front of the goalkeeper after controlling the ball with his arm, though the referee didn’t see it, but he couldn’t get it past Consigli.
After a while, Milan started playing more and more defensively, trying to protect their lead, which allowed Atalanta to make themselves dangerous on a few occasions. In the 63rd minute, Ferreira Pinto made a great run past Gianluca Zambrotta and from the edge of the area he tried a right-footed diagonal shot, which went just wide of the post.
However, at a difficult time for the team, Inzaghi managed to put the match beyond doubt in the 71st minute. Pato played a great subtle pass to the marksman, who was just onside and looped the ball over Consigli before slotting it into the an empty net to make it 2-0.
The 35-year-old even got his hat-trick three minutes later, rounding off a great move that started with a one-two between Zambrotta and Jankulovski; on the Italian’s low cross into the area, Inzaghi struck a clinical left footed shot that beat the Atalanta goalkeeper for the third time.
After this goal, commendably Atalanta still continued to attack in search of a consolation goal. But it was Milan who blew a chance to make it 4-0 in the 84th minute, when Pato was in a great position to take a shot on goal after receiving the ball from Jankulovski, but he inexplicably fired it way over the crossbar. It simply wasn’t his match today.
At the 90th minute, the referee correctly decided to end the match without any injury time was it was already over as a contest. This victory allows Milan to maintain their third position in the table, and they now have 51 points. Meanwhile, Atalanta are 10th with 36 points.
Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Bonera (84’ Antonini), Senderos, Maldini, Zambrotta; Flamini, Pirlo, Jankulovski; Beckham (90’ Viudez); Pato, Inzaghi (80’ Shevchenko). Coach: Ancelotti.
Atalanta (4-4-1-1): Consigli; Garics, Talamonti, Bellini, Peluso; Ferreira Pinto (66’ Defendi), Guarente (60’ De Ascentis), Cigarini (76’ Parravicini), Valdes; Padoin; Plasmati.
Goals: 7’, 71’, 74’ Inzaghi (M)
Booked: Bonera, Jankulovski (M); Bellini, Peluso (A)