Milan: AC Milan came away from a tough Serie A encounter at Atalanta with a hard-earned 1-1 draw on Sunday, while Napoli’s new boy Khvicha Kvaratskhelia starred in a 4-0 thumping of promoted Monza.
Ismael Bennacer made sure that champions Milan came away from the Gewiss Stadium with a deserved point with a well-placed curling effort midway through the second half.
“I think we could have done more. We tried to win this match,” said Bennacer to DAZN.
“They were well drilled and it was hard for us to find spaces. But when you can’t win it’s important that you don’t lose. And we didn’t lose.”
Stefano Pioli’s side had been trailing to Ruslan Malinovskyi’s deflected opener in a typically feisty encounter between local Lombardy rivals which left both on four points from their first two games of the season.
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini had criticised Malinovskyi in the lead up to the match, saying the club should look for a player “who scores more than six goals a season”.
The Ukraine midfielder responded in trademark fashion in the 29th minute.
Known for his powerful shot, Malinovskyi lined up one of his rockets and unleashed an effort which deflected off Pierre Kalulu’s knee and left Mike Maignan with no chance.
Milan should have been level before Bennacer struck, with Kalulu somehow sending a free header over the bar from six yards and Rafael Leao’s powerful drive just swerving wide early in the second half.
Sandro Tonali then missed a golden opportunity to score on the hour after being put through by Charles De Ketelaere and failing to beat Juan Musso.
However eight minutes later Bennacer equalised for Milan, capitalising on a dozing home defence who didn’t react quickly enough to the ball bouncing back in off the corner flag to cut inside and whip home an angled drive.
That was it for action in Bergamo as neither side managed to fashion another genuine chance from the final 20 minutes.
Kvaratskhelia conquers Naples
Kvaratskhelia struck in each half of a stroll at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as Napoli made it two wins from as many games, with Victor Osimhen netting the hosts’ second on the stroke of half-time and Kim Min-jae heading home his first goal for the club late on.
It was another exciting display from Kvaratskhelia who has been an instant hit in Naples, the Georgia winger already scoring three times and setting up another since arriving from Rubin Kazan last month.
“He has quality and plenty of options because he can shoot with both feet and go past players,” said coach Luciano Spalletti to DAZN.
His two strikes on Sunday were both touches of class, opening the scoring in the 35th minute with an unstoppable curling shot which thumped in off the post before adding Napoli’s third just after the hour mark by gliding past Valentin Antov and placing a perfect low shot into the bottom corner.
Spalletti’s side have racked up nine goals to go with their maximum points tally, not the start fans were expecting before the season began.
Supporters had been angry about the way Napoli’s league title challenge collapsed at the tail end of the last campaign and frustration only grew as popular players were sold or allowed to leave as free agents.
However Kvaratskhelia’s sparkling displays and the quick-fire signings of Giovanni Simeone, Tanguy Ndombele and Giacomo Raspadori over the last three days have completely changed the mood in a football mad city.
It was a nightmare evening for Monza however, who have zero points and lost starting centre-back Andrea Ranocchia to an ankle injury which coach Giovanni Stroppa said was “very serious”.
Empoli and Fiorentina held each other to a goalless draw which finished after 10 minutes of added time due to referee Matteo Marchetti having to swap with fourth official Juan Luca Sacchi after injuring his calf.
Bologna drew 1-1 with Verona with goals from Marko Arnautovic and Thomas Henry respectively.