AC Milan beat Atalanta to close in on first Serie A title in 11 years

AC Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atalanta in Serie A.
AC Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atalanta in Serie A.
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AC Milan closed in on their first Serie A title in 11 years on Sunday after goals from Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez earned them a 2-0 win over Atalanta, a victory that sees them end the day two points clear at the top of the standings.

With Internazionale in second and not in action until later on Sunday against Cagliari, league leaders Milan knew they could pile the pressure on their rivals with victory over Atalanta.

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But Stefano Pioli's team looked nervy and devoid of ideas in the first half, failing to create a clear-cut chance in the entire opening 45 minutes.

Their quality came through in the second half, though, as a fine finish from in-form Brazil forward Leao and a superb solo effort from full-back Hernandez saw Milan home, much to the relief of an expectant San Siro.

Inter managed to beat Cagliari later in the day to keep the title race going to the final day of the season, but Milan know a draw in next weekend's final match at Sassuolo will see the Scudetto return to the red half of the city.

"I had to say goodbye to the fans, it's a year that excites me," Pioli said after the match. "It's not over yet, we must be determined and calm.

"I am very satisfied, because we played against a strong team that created difficulties for us. We did well in the attacking phase and we found solutions. We never lost our clarity and we always believed in it, so the victory is a well-deserved reward.

"I'm living very normal weeks, because I see the positive attitude of my players. We have an important background, derived from two years together. The boys make me proud."

Sunday's win was Milan's fifth league success in a row and they stretched their unbeaten Serie A run to 15 matches.

Substitute Junior Messias supplied a fine pass into Leao, who took a touch before slotting home his 11th league goal of the season in the 56th minute.

Eighth-placed Atalanta, who are still hoping to qualify for Europe next season, rarely threatened an equaliser.

Hernandez then produced a stunning effort that could be a goal-of-the-season contender. He picked the ball up in his own half 15 minutes from time, and ran and ran, bypassing several challenges before drilling into the net to seal a crucial victory in Milan's final home game in front of a raucous crowd.