Milan have caught Inter in second place after a confident 2-0 victory over Atalanta, with a magnificent Theo Hernandez volley in off Juan Musso’s back and Junior Messias, also celebrating the return of Mike Maignan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
This was a head-to-head for European places, and though Davide Calabria, Ismael Bennacer and Alessandro Florenzi were still out of action, Mike Maignan made his comeback five months after that serious calf strain. Merih Demiral was suspended, with Hans Hateboer, Duvan Zapata and Mario Pasalic injured, but Marten de Roon and Giorgio Scalvini returned from their bans.
Olivier Giroud fired a half-volley just over from Rafael Leao’s cross in a tricky position, but Milan broke the deadlock with a stunning strike and a bit of luck.
Giroud knocked down a long ball, Theo Hernandez unleashed a rocket of a volley from over 20 metres out, it cannoned off the upright, hit Juan Musso on the back and ricocheted into the net. It will go down as a Musso own goal, though he knew very little about it.
Moments later, Rafael Toloi was booked for the mis-timed sliding tackle on Leao, catching the ball with his arm as he went past. Leao wanted a red card, though it was a long way off the goal, and instead the Milan man was booked for dissent, meaning he’ll be suspended against Fiorentina.
Leao went on a rapid counter-attack and blasted just wide from a tight angle, then fired over when he should’ve passed on a Brahim Diaz counter-attack. Teun Koopmeiners was inches away from connecting with an inspired Rasmus Hojlund through ball.
Sandro Tonali charged down a Koopmeiners effort from the edge of the box, but Musso stood his ground to deny Giroud one-on-one and then got down to beat a Leao curler away with one hand.
Brahim Diaz rolled across for Leao, but Joakim Maehle was stronger in the challenge and blocked him off, then Theo Hernandez robbed Davide Zappacosta at the by-line so Leao could set up Junior Messias, the Brazilian somehow ballooning over the bar from six yards.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on for his season debut, having been out since undergoing knee surgery in May 2022, and immediately made history as the oldest Milan player in Serie A.
Messias made up for the earlier howler by doubling Milan’s lead with a far tougher chance, as Rafael Leao sent him running through the centre with a brilliant first-time pass and this time the Brazilian kept his cool to dink it delicately over the on-rushing goalkeeper.
Milan 2-0 Atalanta
Musso og 26 (M), Messias 86 (M)
(Assist: Rafael Leão)