Inter opened the scoring early with Lautaro Martinez, but Atalanta dominated possession in a 1-1 draw and saw Samir Handanovic save a late Luis Muriel penalty.
This was a mouth-watering fixture, as the Nerazzurri were joint Serie A leaders missing suspended Nicolò Barella and Milan Skriniar, with Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kwadwo Asamoah injured, so Stefano Sensi made his first start in three months. Atalanta for the first time had a full squad to choose from, coming off back-to-back 5-0 wins, so Duvan Zapata received his first start since a serious thigh injury for Colombia in mid-October, completing the first choice trident with Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic.
After just 20 seconds, Romelu Lukaku twisted and turned in a crowd of players, his shot thumping the base of the upright.
That was only a warning, because on three-and-a-half minutes, Lautaro Martinez completed a quick give and go with Romelu Lukaku, taking it down to drill past Pierluigi Gollini from 10 yards.
Atalanta fought back, Mario Pasalic firing over after a diving Josip Ilicic back-heel flick, then Lautaro back defending to stop Duvan Zapata from getting his shot away.
The visitors started to dominate possession, but Inter remained dangerous and Lautaro Martinez almost made it 2-0 on 22 minutes. His lob over the goalkeeper from the tightest of angles was cleared off the line by Jose Luis Palomino.
Gomez’s angled drive flashed wide, then Samir Handanovic needed a double save on Rafael Toloi’s header from a free kick and the chaotic rebound bobbled wide from a yard out. Toloi insisted he’d been fouled by Lautaro Martinez, but the VAR booth waved play on, suggesting it was an accidental collision. Replays leave more than a few question marks, because Lautaro seemed to loop his arm forward to catch Toloi’s ankle and trip him up. If it had been spotted, that would’ve been not just a penalty, but potentially also a red card.
Duvan Zapata was rusty after such a long time out, so he was replaced by Ruslan Malinovskyi, who within two minutes hit a rocket that bounced off the upright.
Atalanta continued to dominate possession and were pinning Inter further back, Robin Gosens volleying over and Malinovskyi again off target from distance.
The equaliser had absolutely been coming and Inter’s siege mentality eventually crumbled on 76 minutes. Ilicic’s cross was deflected, Malinovskyi knocked it on with his head and Robin Gosens acrobatically managed to stretch around Candreva to volley in from a tricky angle.
The momentum remained with the visitors, as Luis Muriel’s weak header didn’t make the most of a Hans Hateboer cross, then Godin was booked for bringing down Gomez just outside the box. Papu’s fantastic volley smacked the crossbar, although the offside flag was already up on the cross.
Marcelo Brozovic juggled the ball over a defender and hit the half-volley to sting Gollini’s gloves.
The pressure finally paid off for Atalanta when Alessandro Bastoni bumped into the back of Malinovskyi and the referee gave a rather soft penalty. Muriel stepped up, but captain Handanovic confirmed his excellent spot-kick record with a save at the near post.
Both teams wanted to win in stoppages, Borja Valero firing wide and Atalanta again swarming around the box with a series of passes.
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Saved pen: Muriel 88 (A)