"We all go back to where we belong", sang R.E.M. And that is exactly what we have done this evening. Our last Champions League game was on 12 March 2014 at the Estadio Vicente Calderón in Madrid. Now, the wait is over; thanks to a 2-0 win over Atalanta at the Gewiss Stadium, AC Milan finish in second place and are finally returning to Europe's elite. The Rossoneri, who needed to win in Bergamo, put in a solid and courageous performance, replete with sacrifice. They nullified Atalanta's attack, hit the Dea on the break and scored twice from the spot through Kessie: one at halftime and one in injury time at the end of the second half. The team held firm for 90 minutes and played as a team right up until the final whistle. The season ends with 79 points in the bank and a second-place finish: deservedly so after fighting day after day, game after game, minute after minute in this final match against a team that has been excellent all season. We can finally celebrate after a seemingly endless cycle: we are back in the Champions League!
CHECK OUT THE GALLERY FROM ATALANTA V AC MILAN
It was an extremely hard-fought and tactical affair, with the hosts enjoying most of the ball but rarely threatening Gigio’s goal. The same could be said for the Rossoneri, who only troubled Gollini in the fourth minute after Saelemaekers rifled over from a good position. AC Milan largely struggled in their build-up play and on the counter. However, that was up until the 42nd minute when Theo was brought down in the penalty area by a combination of Mæhle and Romero. Kessie subsequently stepped up to take the spot-kick and beat Gollini to make it 1-0.
The second half started with Atalanta on the attack, with Muriel coming on for Pessina. This offensive pressure soon led to a superb chance for Zapata in the 58th minute, who turned well after receiving possession from Malinovskyi and struck the ball just inches wide. Pioli responded by bringing on Meïte and Krunić for Bennacer and Díaz, although the hosts continued pushing and Malinovskyi twice threatened from long-range. It was then in the 69th minute that Milan sparked to life through Meïte, whose ball for Leão led to Rafa being denied by the post. Muriel then responded for Atalanta three minutes later by crashing a long-range effort just wide. As the game entered its latter stages, Atalanta maintained its attacking ambition but it was Milan who found the back of the net once again through Franck's second from the spot after a handball from Gosens. The final whistle soon followed, with a 2-0 win ensuring AC Milan’s return to the Champions League!
ATALANTA v AC MILAN
ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi (87' Palomino), Romero, Djimsiti; Mæhle (79' Pašalić), de Roon, Freuler (87' Mirančuk), Gosens; Malinovskyi, Pessina (46' Muriel); Zapata. Subs: Rossi, Sportiello; Caldara, Ruggeri, Šutalo; Iličić, Lammers. Coach: Gasperini.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjær, Tomori, Hernández; Bennacer (61' Krunić), Kessie; Saelemaekers (79' Dalot), Díaz (62' Meïte), Çalhanoğlu; Leão (79' Mandžukić). Subs: A. Donnarumma, Tătăruşanu; Kalulu, Romagnoli; Castillejo, Hauge, Tonali; Maldini. Coach.: Pioli.
Referee: Mariani from Aprilia.
Goal: 43' pen. Kessie (M), 93' pen. Kessie (M).
Booked: 48' Freuler (A), 70' de Roon (A), 82' Mandžukić (M), 86' Toloi (A), 92' Dalot (M).
Sent off: 92' de Roon (A).
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