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Milan hang on to beat Atalanta and close gap with leaders Napoli

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BERGAMO, Italy (Reuters) -AC Milan continued their impressive start to the Serie A season on Sunday, surviving a late Atalanta comeback to earn a 3-2 away victory.

Milan raced into an early lead, with captain Davide Calabria poking home the ball at the second attempt after just 28 seconds.

The hosts piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser but could not make several chances count, and Atalanta’s wastefulness proved costly as Sandro Tonali raced clear three minutes before the break to double Milan’s advantage.

Milan did not let up as Rafael Leao seemingly put the victory beyond all doubt with a third goal with 12 minutes to go.

Duvan Zapata got Atalanta back into the contest from the penalty spot with four minutes left, before Mario Pasalic ensured a nervy finish for Milan in stoppage time with a second goal for the hosts but it proved too little, too late.

A sixth victory from seven league games this season for second-placed Milan helped them to close the gap with leaders Napoli to two points, while Atalanta, who finished third behind Milan last term, are eighth after their first defeat in six matches in all competitions.

“After it went to 3-2 we were worried but it is over now,” Tonali told DAZN. “We had a great match.

“We went strong despite a bit of tiredness after the Champions League in midweek. Now let’s continue like this. If you come to Bergamo and play a match like that it means that you are on the right path.”

Milan were the away-day specialists last season, winning 16 of their 19 games on the road in Serie A, and maintaining their unbeaten away record this term became much more achievable in Bergamo following Calabria’s early goal.

Calabria’s finish was the third-fastest Milan goal in Serie A since the 2004-05 season — when such statistics were first gathered.

Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskiy both should have done better from good positions for the home side as they chased a leveller, while goalkeeper Mike Maignan was again in fine form for Milan.

The goal that gave Milan breathing space was avoidable, as Remo Freuler was caught in possession by Tonali who was able to stroke home his third of the season unopposed.

Atalanta tailed off as the match wore on, with Alexis Saelemaekers missing a glorious chance to make it three midway through the second half before Leao hammered home his third goal of the season.

Out of nowhere, Milan debutant Junior Messias was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area, giving Zapata the chance to unsettle Stefano Pioli’s side, which he converted with aplomb.

That bolt from the blue proved to be disruptive as substitute Pasalic was left unmarked to stroke home from close range but there was not enough time to complete the comeback.

“We did better than our opponents, we deservedly won against a strong team and on a difficult pitch,” Pioli told reporters.

“We knew that Atalanta start strongly at home, but we started better than them with the goal from Calabria, it gave us greater conviction.”

Napoli recover to win 2-1 at Fiore and maintain perfect start

Napoli came from behind to earn a 2-1 victory at Fiorentina in Serie A on Sunday, ensuring they remain the only side in Europe’s top five leagues with a 100% record this season.

The league leaders started sluggishly and were punished in the 28th minute as Lucas Martinez Quarta took advantage of some slack marking to fire Fiorentina into a deserved lead.

The opener acted as a wake-up call for Napoli with Hirving Lozano firing them level 10 minutes later, following up after goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski had brilliantly saved Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty.

Victor Osimhen then almost edged Napoli in front before halftime with a spectacular overhead kick. However, the visitors did not have to wait much longer to complete the turnaround, with Amir Rrahmani giving them a 2-1 lead in the 50th minute.

Napoli had further chances to make the win more comfortable, but saw the game out to secure a seventh straight success and stay top, four points clear of second-placed Inter Milan.

Fiorentina remain fifth after their third defeat of the season.

It is only the second time in Napoli’s history that they have won their opening seven matches of a Serie A campaign, but that was still not enough to please coach Luciano Spalletti.

“We still need to improve, to see out results after battling to be in front,” he told DAZN.

“This (margin of) victory is small and there was a chance to do better. Some players are still not fully fit. Playing every three days is not easy. We still have a lot to do.”

Pellegrini sets Roma on their way to comfortable win over Empoli

Lorenzo Pellegrini celebrated signing a new contract and his recall to the Italian national team squad by setting AS Roma on their way to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Empoli in Serie A on Sunday.

The 25-year-old midfielder penned a new deal to stay in the Italian capital until 2026 before the match and arrowed Roma in front three minutes before the break, days after being named in the Azzurri squad for this week’s Nations League finals.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan had Roma two goals in front three minutes later, reacting first after Tammy Abraham’s powerful strike had come back off the crossbar, with the hosts able to take their foot off the gas after that and see out the victory with ease.

The result kept Jose Mourinho’s side fourth in the standings, six points behind leaders Napoli, while Empoli stayed 10th.

“We played well, a solid and compact game but I would not say calm,” Mourinho told DAZN. “We were in control against a team that plays well, it creates difficulties with the two full backs who are very high.

“We deserved to win. After a defeat it is always good to win. Seven games, 15 points — good.”

Fernando Forestieri’s late equaliser earned Udinese a point in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Sampdoria, while Hellas Verona thrashed Spezia 4-0 in Veneto.

Reuters

Photo Milan players celebrate after winning the Italian Serie A soccer match between Atalanta BC and AC Milan in Bergamo, Italy, 03 October 2021. EPA-EFE/PAOLO MAGNI

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