Ismael Bennacer showed a glimpse against Atalanta of how he could bring a new dimension to AC Milan’s midfield, striking a crucial equaliser as the Serie A champions came back to draw 1-1 in Bergamo.
The Rossoneri were 1-0 down and struggling against La Dea at the Gewiss Stadium but it was the Algerian midfielder who produced the equaliser.
He picked up the ball wide in the 18-yard box as part of a corner routine and as he squared up to the defender it became clear there was an acre of space to his left.
The 24-year-old shifted the ball to one side and curled a shot perfectly in off the far post to give Milan hope of a second win of the season.
They were not able to find a winner, meaning it was the first time under Stefano Pioli that they have not won their opening two games.
A rare goal for Bennacer against Atalanta
This was Bennacer’s first goal of the new campaign but he is now already halfway to reaching his tally for the 2021/22 season.
He found the back of the net in a 4-2 win over Bologna back in November 2021 but his second of the season was much more notable for more than one reason.
It came in late March against Cagliari and was an instinctive volley from the edge of the box into the bottom corner. It was the winning goal in a very hard-fought match in Sardinia.
It was vital because it was right at the time in the season when Milan were getting a serious hold over the title race and a draw away at Cagliari could have seriously disrupted their momentum.
Interestingly, all of his four Serie A goals have come in the second half and the last three were away from home.
Bennacer and replacing Kessie’s AC Milan goals
The goal against Atalanta on Sunday could perhaps be a catalyst for Bennacer to offer more to the Milan midfield.
He is superb at winning the ball back and keeping the play moving at a good pace but goals are not his strong suit. That is fine, but Franck Kessie’s departure for Barcelona means that six Serie A goals have left the midfield when compared to last season.
He has not been directly replaced and it seems it will be up to the remaining midfielders to pick up the slack.
It could well pan out that this is Bennacer’s only goal of the season, but he certainly seems to have been getting forward more regularly and looks more willing to take a shot on.
If the former Arsenal man can add five goals to Milan’s tally this season, it could make the difference in what should be an incredibly tight Scudetto race in Serie A.