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.”
(Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by Clare Fallon)