AC Milan 0 Atalanta 2: Cristante, Ilicic leave Gattuso searching for answers

AC Milan suffered a second successive Serie A loss under new coach Gennaro Gattuso, whose side had few answers to Atalanta at San Siro.

The Leonardo Bonucci-led backline continues to be porous this season, with GA now 26.   -  Getty Images

Gennaro Gattuso is set to be haunted by the ghost of Christmas present in the week ahead after Atalanta defeated AC Milan 2-0 on Saturday, consigning it to a second consecutive Serie A loss under the new head coach.

Milan was surprisingly thumped 3-0 by struggling Verona last time out and it was unable to positively respond at the first attempt, former Rossoneri player Bryan Cristante and Josip Ilicic scoring for the visitor to spread fresh ripples of discontent among the long-suffering San Siro crowd.

The result leaves Milan 11th in the table and with its Champions League qualification hopes likely to be over already, an off-season of expensive recruitment has evidently failed to produce the desired transformation.

It must now prepare for Wednesday's Coppa Italia derby against city rival Inter, which has also suffered two successive losses to see its title challenge falter in recent weeks.

Read: Falcinelli compounds Inter's nightmare before Christmas

Milan then returns to Serie A duty away to Fiorentina next weekend, as Gattuso, who replaced Vincenzo Montella at the helm late last month, searches for a formula that will solve the team's seemingly perennial inconsistency.

Atalanta by contrast is seventh and seeking to mount a repeat of the impressive campaign that saw it finish fourth last season.

Milan had the ball in the back of the net in the 14th minute, only for the goal to be ruled out after referee Michael Fabbri consulted a video replay. 

Franck Kessie swung a good cross into the area against his former side, but Patrick Cutrone handled the ball before Giacomo Bonaventura hooked it into the roof of the net.

Atalanta finally broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute, when Cutrone earned a yellow card for a foul on Alejandro Gomez, who swung in the subsequent free-kick.

Mattia Caldara's downward header was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, but the goalkeeper could not keep hold of the ball and Cristante stabbed it home.

Milan, perhaps with a fierce Gattuso team talk ringing in the ears, started the second half in determined fashion, going close three times in quick succession through Nikola Kalinic, while Ricardo Rodriguez and Fabio Borini also had chances.

Borini threatened again in the 66th minute, his half-volley snap shot flashing just wide of the post with Etrit Berisha beaten.

Instead it was Atalanta which struck with 19 minutes to go, Leonardo Spinazzola racing away down the left flank before crossing to the centre of the penalty area, where substitute Ilicic confidently finish past Donnarumma.

Milan proved unable to muster a convincing response as full-time approached, leaving Gattuso and his backroom staff with some serious thinking to do over the festive season.

Key Opta facts:

- Atalanta has scored 28 goals in its first 18 Serie A matches for the first time since the 1955-56 season.
- AC Milan has lost three of its last six home league matches in Serie A (W1, D2), as many as it had lost in the previous 11 at Meazza stadium (W8).
- Milan has lost eight games in its first 18 Serie A matchdays for the first time since 1981-82 season.

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