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Serie A: Zlatan returns as AC Milan defeats Atalanta

AC Milan players celebrating a goal in the match. | PHOTO: Milan |
  • AC Milan hosted Atalanta at the San Siro in a top-of-the-table Serie A clash
  • Milan headed into the match from a win and wanted to make it four wins in four matches
  • A goal from Junior Messias and an Atalanta own goal ensured Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a win in his first in almost a year

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start in nine months as AC Milan defeated Atalanta 2-0 in the Serie A at San Siro to tie Inter for second place on points.

Milan seized the opportunity after Inter’s unexpected 1-0 loss to Bologna early on Sunday, winning their fourth straight match overall at home.

After Theo Hernandez’s long-range volley struck the goal frame and deflected in off the goalkeeper’s back in the 25th minute, Juan Musso’s own goal set Stefano Pioli’s team on their way.

Following Ibrahimovic’s long-awaited return, the hosts, who also had Mike Maignan back in their lineup after regaining fitness, scored a deserving second through Junior Messias late on.

The opening goal for Milan featured a small amount of luck, as Hernandez’s beautiful 25-yard shot was assisted over the goal line by Musso after the ball had struck the post.

Milan struggled to make their dominance truly evident as Rafael Leao clipped the side netting, shot over from a glorious position, and was then stopped by a fine Musso save.

AC Milan 2-0 win over Atalanta

AC Milan players celebrate after Junior Messias scored the second goal against Atalanta in the Serie A at San Siro on Sunday, February 26 2023. | PHOTO: Milan |

The next Milan player to attempt a shot that missed the mark was Messias, who had a clear shot at the goal. At that point, Pioli turned to Zlatan.

Messias’ clipped finish over Musso four minutes from the end, after Leao had put him through on goal, gave the host team the victory.

Milan maintains good form

Napoli leads by a huge 18 points, so Milan’s chances of retaining the Scudetto are slim, but they have found their form again and are now level with bitter foes Inter.

This is the first time this season that the Rossoneri have won four straight matches across all competitions on the day Pioli took control of his 800th career game as a coach.

While Roma is currently in fourth place, Atalanta has dropped four of their last five league games and is three points outside the Champions League places despite having played one more game.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes a much-awaited return

Milan 2-0 Atalanta: Ibrahimovic

AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start in over a year since having surgery on May 2022 when Milan defeated Atalanta 2-0 in Serie A at San Siro on Sunday, February 26 2023. | PHOTO: SportsMax |

Pioli felt it was time for Ibrahimovic to play his first competitive match since having knee surgery in May 2022 after he failed to make an appearance as a substitute in three games this month.

Ibrahimovic has passed Alessandro Costacurta to become the oldest Milan player to compete in Serie A during the three-points-per-win period (1993–94 season). Ibrahimovic is now 41 years and 146 days old (41 years and 25 days).

Wasteful Milan not punished by Atalanta

Prior to Messias’ eventual addition of a second goal, Milan missed several good opportunities, but Atalanta failed to pose any type of offensive threat throughout the game.

For the first time since Opta began keeping track of such statistics during the 2004–05 season, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team failed to try a single shot in the first half of a league match. In the second half, their lone attempt was off-target.

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