Serie A roundup: Milan hold off Atalanta, stay on heels of perfect Napoli
Milan, Oct 3, 2021 (AFP) - Sandro Tonali said Sunday that the Serie A title is AC Milan's only goal for the season after he helped the Rossoneri stay in touch with leaders Napoli in a 3-2 win at Atalanta which underlines their Scudetto credentials.
Milan came out on top in a frenetic encounter to stay two points behind Napoli, whose 2-1 win at Fiorentina was their seventh in as many games so far this season, after a nervy ending in Bergamo which saw Atalanta pull back two late goals after going three down with 12 minutes remaining.
And asked by DAZN if he remembered Milan winning the league in 2003-04, the last time they had 19 points from their first seven games, the 21-year-old said: "No, I really was young back then".
But then he added: "We don't talk about these things but it (the league title) is the only aim Milan have this season."
Having heard Tonali speak while waiting for his own interview, Milan coach Stefano Pioli praised the midfielder for his positive attitude as he delighted in his team's victory.
"We played really well with intensity, energy and quality. It's a brilliant end to a difficult set of fixtures and the team is improving both in Serie A and the Champions League," said Pioli.
There are signs that a three-way title race is taking shape with Inter Milan a further two points back in third, while Roma are also lurking in fourth on 15 points following their 2-0 win over Empoli earlier on Sunday.
Tonali was one of Milan's best performers at the Gewiss Stadium and, after captain Davide Calabria had put the away side ahead with just 28 seconds on the clock, he made the most of goalkeeper Mike Maignan holding Atalanta at bay when he doubled Milan's lead two minutes from half-time with his second goal of the season.
Milan kept a lid on Atalanta and should have added to their lead through Alexis Saelemaekers before Rafael Leao did curl home the third in the 78th minute.
Duvan Zapata's 86th-minute penalty and a Mario Pasalic tap-in deep in stoppage time kept the game alive until the final whistle but Milan ran out deserved winners.
"I saw a really strong Milan team, they have qualities which very few teams in Italy have... they really impressed me," said Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini.
100 percent Napoli
Luciano Spalletti's Napoli have a perfect 21 points thanks to their come-from-behind victory at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, which came through strikes from Hirving Lozano and Amir Rrahmani either side of half-time.
It was a tough defeat for Fiorentina, who lost in a similar fashion to how they fell at home to Inter a few weeks back after deservedly taking the lead through Lucas Martinez Quarta.
Vincenzo Italiano's side stay fifth on 12 points, nine behind Napoli and three away from Roma in fourth.
"We suffered a bit after we went ahead, but we also had situations where we could have put ourselves 3-1 ahead which we didn't manage to exploit," said Spalletti to DAZN.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was named in the Italy squad for the upcoming Nations League Final Four, sent Roma on their way against Empoli with his sixth goal in all competitions this term three minutes before half-time.
It came the day after the 25-year-old extended his contract with the club until 2026.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan made sure of the points for Jose Mourinho's side two minutes after the restart with his second of the campaign, guiding the ball home after Guglielmo Vicario had just managed to tip Tammy Abraham's fierce drive onto the bar.
Bologna eased pressure on coach Sinisa Mihajlovic with a comfortable 3-0 win over Lazio which ended a worrying run of results and moved them up to ninth on 11 points.
Sampdoria sit 15th on six points, two fewer than 13th-placed Udinese after the pair drew 3-3 in one of two mid-afternoon matches.
Verona are also on eight points in 12th after stretching their unbeaten run under new coach Igor Tudor to four matches with a 4-0 crushing of Spezia.