Goals from Cristian Romero, Illicic and Zapata gave Atalanta a 3-0 win, meaning they have achieved their best ever points tally for the first-half of a season.
Milan made a flying start to the match. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was put through by Rafael Leao inside a minute but put his shot wide. He was then ruled offside. Just a minute later Theo Hernandez made a great run down the left and whipped a low cross in, which Berat Djimsiti reached before Ibrahimovic.
That was about as good as it got for Milan in the first half. Illicic began to run the game. Every Atalanta attack went through the Slovenian. La Dea did not create anything too clear-cut, but the pressure was relentless.
They got the goal their dominance deserved after 25 minutes through an unlikely source. A corner was worked to Robin Gosens on the edge who whipped a cross in, which Romero met with a low header through Gianluigi Donnarumma. That was the Argentinian’s first Serie A goal for Atalanta.
Milan did fashion their best chance of the half towards the end. A Sandro Tonali free kick went deep towards the far post where it seemed Ibrahimovic just needed to get a clean contact on the ball. Instead, the ball pinged off him just wide.
Soualiho Meite was given his first start for Milan by Stefano Pioli. The 26-year-old Frenchman arrived last week on loan from Torino. He started just behind Ibrahimovic but struggled to make any impact at all. He was subbed off at half time for Brahim Diaz.
Illicic gets his goal
The second half couldn’t have started much worse for Milan. On the 50th minute, Illicic was being held in the box by Pierre Kalulu and then received an elbow across the face from Franck Kessie. The referee pointed to the spot and it was calmly dispatched by Illicic to make it 2-0. Kessie was booked but he was potentially lucky not to be sent off.
To add insult to injury, Kalulu was then stretchered off with what looked like a rib injury. Mateo Musacchio was called upon rather than new signing Fikayo Tomori who was sat on the bench.
Milan continued to lack creativity, whilst Atalanta squandered chances to make it 3-0. With 15 minutes to go however, Zapata put the game to bed. With three passes Atalanta turned defence into attack and Zapata was through on goal, slotting past Donnarumma.
Both teams came into this game in a good spell of form, so many expected a close affair. In the end, Atalanta looked much more like a side who could win the Scudetto than Milan did.
A redeeming factor for the Milan fans is that Inter Milan only drew 0-0 with Udinese at the same time, meaning the Rossoneri are the winter champions of Serie A.