A Franck Kessie penalty kick double gave AC Milan a 2-0 win over Atalanta as the Rossoneri qualified for the Champions League and finished second in Serie A.
Stefano Pioli’s side knew victory would secure their place in the top four regardless of what happened in Juventus’ away game against Bologna and Napoli’s home match with Verona.
A tight first half saw few goalscoring opportunities created until AC Milan were awarded a penalty for a foul on Theo Hernandez inside the box. Kessie stepped up to find the bottom corner from 12 yards out.
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Luis Muriel was introduced by Gian Piero Gasperini at half-time with AC Milan also using Diogo Dalot, Mario Mandzukic, Rade Krunic and Soualiho Meite off the bench as news of Juventus and Napoli goals filtered through.
Rafael Leao might have doubled AC Milan’s advantage after being played through on goal by Meite, but the Portuguese forward’s scooped effort bounced off the base of the post.
Atalanta cranked up the pressure as they looked for an equaliser that would have further shaken up the top four picture in Serie A, but it was AC Milan who scored next, with Kessie converting a second penalty to secure second place for the Rossoneri.
TALKING POINT - AC Milan stop progress from slipping through their fingers
AC Milan were so impressive this season that they sat at the top of the Serie A table for a number of months. However, their form after Christmas threatened all the progress made under Stefano Pioli. The failure to qualify for the Champions League would have prompted an inquest at San Siro. When it mattered most, though, AC Milan got the win they needed to consolidate their development. The challenge for Pioli will now be to build on what he and his players have achieved this season.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Franck Kessie (AC Milan)
There were a number of impressive performers for AC Milan as they finished the best of the rest in Serie A with this victory, but it was Franck Kessie who shone brightest. The central midfielder showed exceptional composure from the spot, not once but twice, to clinch the 2-0 win for the Rossoneri, but he was also a key figure for his team over the course of the 90 minutes. With Kessie in the centre of the pitch, Milan always looked secure.
Atalanta - Gollini 5, Toloi 5, Romero 6, Djimsiti 5, Maehle 3, De Roon 4, Freuler 4, Gosens 5, Pessina 5, Malinovskyi 6, Zapata 6. Subs - Muriel 7, Palomino 4, Miranchuk 4, Pasalic 3.
AC Milan - Donnarumma 7, Calabria 6, Tomori 6, Kjaer 8, Theo 7, Bennacer 6, Kessie 8, Saelemaekers 7, Calhanoglu 5, Diaz 5, Leao 5. Subs - Dalot 5, Mandzukic 4, Meite 7.
40’ PENALTY TO AC MILAN! Theo is felled inside the area by Maehle and the referee points to the spot!
42’ GOAL! Atalanta 0-1 AC Milan: A huge goal for AC Milan and Kessie is the one who has scored it! Brilliant composure from the central midfielder who kept his composure and passed the ball into the bottom, left-hand corner of the Atalanta net! That's the goal Pioli's side needed!
70’ Off the post! That was the chance for AC Milan to double their advantage! Brilliant play from Meite who won the ball and then set up Leao, but his shot comes back off the woodwork!
90+2’ PENALTY TO AC MILAN! A handball inside the area and the referee points to the spot for a second time!
90+3’ RED CARD! The referee has flashed a red card to De Roon and Atalanta have been reduced to 10 men in stoppage time! Meanwhile, there's chaos on the pitch. It's all happening!
90+4’ GOAL! Atalanta 0-2 AC Milan: A second penalty for Kessie and AC Milan are heading into the Champions League! Massive celebrations from everyone associated with the club! The three points are in the bag! Great composure shown by Kessie from the spot.
AC Milan qualified for the Champions League for the first time since the 2013/14 season, seven seasons ago.
Franck Kessie is the first player to score 10 or more penalties for AC Milan in a single Serie A season since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2011/12.
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