Ilicic inspires Atalanta to the Benevento rout

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Milan (AFP)

Josip Ilicic scored one goal and put in two more as Atalanta rose to fourth in Serie A on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over Benevento.

The 32-year-old has proven he is back to his best after two months with personal issues following the first coronavirus lockdown last year.

The Slovenian striker was omnipresent for the northerners with captain Papu Gomez still frozen after a clash with coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

Ilicic put the visitors ahead after half an hour, with an impressive solo run down the right flank, dribbling three defenders to shoot through Kamil Glik’s legs into the goal.

He was denied a second by the post soon after, after providing perfect crosses to Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who wasted their chances in the first half.

Marco Sau brought Benevento back to level five minutes after the break, with Zapata having a goal ruled offside.

But Ilicic was instrumental in Atalanta’s next two goals, with Benevento goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo pushing a Slovenian effort into the way of Rafael Toloi who finished cool after 69 minutes.

Two minutes later, Ilicic was on the spot again with the perfect cross for Zapata to send the third from close range.

Substitute Luis Muriel finished four minutes from time for his 10th goal this campaign.

Atalanta overtake champions Juventus by one point, with the Bergamo side now six points behind leaders AC Milan who host Turin later on Saturday.

Milan are looking to extend their one-point advantage over city rivals Inter, who travel to third-placed Roma on Sunday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in the Milan squad after a seven-week absence as the 39-year-old missed eight league games.

Fifth-placed Juve face a draw at home against sixth-placed Sassuolo on Sunday.

Andrea Pirlo’s team does not have three players suffering from coronavirus in Alex Sandro, Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs De Ligt.

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