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Monday, March 01, 2021

Serie A: Atalanta stun leaders AC Milan; Conte sees red in Inter Milan draw

Inter Milan missed out on the chance to go top in Serie A as coach Antonio Conte was sent off for dissent in a 0-0 draw at strugglers Udinese.

By: Reuters |
January 24, 2021 10:06:04 am
Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte is shown a red card by referee Fabio Maresca (Source: Reuters)

Atalanta consigned AC Milan to their second league defeat of the season with a 3-0 win at San Siro on Saturday, but Stefano Pioli’s side were still named ‘winter champions’ in Serie A.

A Cristian Romero header put the visitors ahead at halftime before a Josip Ilicic penalty and Duvan Zapata strike completed a dominant victory for the Bergamo side.Atalanta had the chances to win by an even wider margin as an out-of-sorts Milan put in one of their worst performances of the season.

The home side failed to muster a shot on target until debutant Mario Mandzukic drew a good save from Pierluigi Gollini in the 71st minute with his first touch after coming off the bench.

“Today a lot of things were lacking,” Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic told Sky Sports.

“I don’t want to make excuses, you need to go into every game to get the result. Today we didn’t manage that.”

Milan nevertheless claim the title of winter champions as they top the standings at the halfway point of the season with 43 points, two ahead of Inter Milan after their 0-0 draw at Udinese.

It’s usually a good indicator of what is to come, as only two Serie A winter champions have failed to finish on top since the league reverted to 20 teams in 2004: Napoli in 2015-16 and 2017-18.”We’re halfway there, this means that we’ve done well up until now,” Ibrahimovic added.

“Now is the most difficult period with a lot of games. We need to stay well physically.”

Atalanta moved into the top four on 36 points, a record tally for the Bergamo club at the midway stage of a Serie A season featuring 20 teams.

The visitors started strongly and a goal seemed inevitable by the time Romero stooped to head in, while Ibrahimovic volleyed Milan’s best chance of the first half wide at the back post.

Franck Kessie caught Ilicic in the face with an elbow early in the second half to concede a penalty that the Slovenian converted.Mandzukic, who joined Milan on a free transfer this week, came on for his debut in the 70th minute and needed a matter of seconds before testing Gollini’s reflexes with a close-range shot.

But Atalanta’s dominance continued as Zapata powered a header off the foot of the post before finding the target when he raced clear in the box to finish at the near post.

Conte sees red as Inter Milan are held to Udinese stalemate

Inter Milan missed out on the chance to go top in Serie A as coach Antonio Conte was sent off for dissent in a 0-0 draw at strugglers Udinese on Saturday.

The visitors travelled to Udine on a high after beating title rivals Juventus 2-0 last weekend but they couldn’t break down the determined hosts, who became the first team to keep a clean sheet against Inter in Serie A this season.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez came closest when his first half shot drew a spectacular one-handed save from Juan Musso, but the visitors’ frustration showed when Conte was dismissed for dissent in stoppage time.

“We didn’t agree about the amount of stoppage time,” Conte told Sky Sports.”The referee has to take his decisions and we have to accept them, even if we don’t agree.”

Conte’s side remain second on 41 points, two behind AC Milan at the halfway stage of the season, while Udinese are 14th on 18 points but without a win in nine games.

The Inter coach stuck with the same team that defeated Juve, but his side were flat and failed to find the net for the first time in 21 Serie A matches, a streak stretching back to a 0-0 draw against Fiorentina in July 2020.

It was a missed opportunity as a win would have moved Inter ahead of leaders AC Milan on goal difference and be named winter champions after their rivals lost 3-0 to Atalanta.

“We need to look at ourselves, we can’t think about Milan and the fact that they lost,” Conte said.”There is room for improvement, today we could’ve been more precise. Above all we were lacking quality in the final ball, which is fundamental.

“We can and must improve from this point of view if we want to have ambitions of fighting to the end for something important.”

Martinez looked certain to score when he pounced on a loose pass and fired a shot at goal, but Musso somehow kept it out with a one-handed save.

Nicolo Barella sent a dipping volley over the bar, while the hosts also couldn’t find their range as Roberto Pereyra blasted over and Rodrigo De Paul shot narrowly wide.

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