New Delhi: Cristiano Doni scored twice, and Sergio Floccari once as Atalanta thrashed Serie A leaders Inter 3-1 at the Stadio Azzurri d'Italia.
Inter had a bumpy start to the New Year last week when they drew at home with Cagliari, and they were looking to continue their recovery, having confidently beaten Genoa in the Coppa Italia in midweek.
Marco Materazzi and Patrick Vieira were injured, while Sulley Muntari was suspended, meaning that Christian Chivu again played in a central midfield role. Hernan Crespo was given the nod over Adriano to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic up-front, and Dejan Stankovic returned after a recent spell on the sidelines. Defender Walter Samuel was struck down with a bout of flu on the day of the game, and had to withdraw, meaning that Nicolas Burdisso started in his place.
Atalanta had almost a full strength squad to choose from, although they were without the injured Alessio Cerci. Once again, Cristiano Doni supported lone frontman Sergio Floccari in attack.
Atalanta had a strong start, and had the first attempt of the game as Ferreira Pinto sliced horribly off-target from long-range.
Doni produced a piece of absolute magic on eight minutes as he juggled the ball in the area, twisted and volleyed the ball just wide. Floccari went even closer a minute later, as he left Burdisso for dead, and shot inches past the post from 20 yards,
On 17 minutes Atalanta broke the deadlock, and unsurprisingly it was Floccari who got the goal. The 27-year-old controlled Doni's flick-on inside the area, and delightfully turned Cordoba before firing past Julio Cesar.
It could have been 2-0 moments later, as Jaime Valdes unleashed a piledriver from 25 yards that fizzed just wide of the post.
Floccari was causing all kinds of problems, and he turned his marker yet again on 25 minutes, but this time shot straight at Julio Cesar.
It was all Atalanta, and it came as no surprise when they doubled their lead on 28 minutes. Doni grabbed the goal, as his free kick took a wicked deflection off Ibrahimovic's raised hand, leaving Julio Cesar stranded.
This prompted Jose Mourinho into a change as he introduced Victor Obinna for Chivu, but Atalanta continued to run rampant, and incredibly they made it 3-0 on 33 minutes. Valdes crossed from the left, and Doni darted towards the near post to pump home a bullet header.
Inter had been quite dreadful all half, barely stringing two passes together, and their only efforts were two long-range Crespo drives that were well off-target.
Mourinho used up his two other substitutions at half time, with Luis Figo and Adriano coming on for Maxwell and Crespo.
Adriano almost made an immediate impact, with an acrobatic scissor kick that finished not too far over.
Ferreira Pinto threatened a fourth goal though, as his angled shot forced Julio Cesar into a diving save. Guarente, who had run the show in midfield, then fired viciously into the side-netting from 30 yards.
The chances continued to come for Atalanta, and Doni missed a glorious opportunity to clinch his hat-trick, as he misjudged the flight of the ball with a free header just yards out.
Substitute Diego De Ascentis then inexplicably missed a virtual open goal, crashing the ball against the post from two yards out after Julio Cesar had parried Ferreira Pinto's original effort.
It was wave after wave of Atalanta attacks, and Doni's shot just shy of the hour mark deflected just centimetres past the post.
Inter tried to react, and Ibrahimovic forced Coppola into his first save of the game with a daisycutter.
The away side's first real chance of the game did not arrive until the 80th minute when Adriano found space inside the area, and crashed a shot over the bar. Obinna also wasted two fine opportunities as he first fired over, with just Coppola to beat, and then forced the goalkeeper into a save.
Inter did grab a consolation in injury time as Ibrahimovic swept home when Atalanta failed to clear the ball at a corner.
This was by far Inter's worst performance of the season, and if Juventus win at Lazio tonight, their lead at the top of Serie A will be cut to just one point.
Atalanta: Coppola, Garics, Talamonti, Manfredini, Bellini (Rivalta 84), Ferreira Pinto, Padoin, Guarente, Valdes (De Ascentis 49), Doni, Floccari (Vieri 89)
Inter: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba, Burdisso, Maxwell (Figo 46), Zanetti, Chivu (Obinna 28), Cambiasso, Stankovic, Crespo (Adriano), Ibrahimovic
Floccari 17 (A)
Doni 28 (A)
Doni 33 (A)
Ibrahimovic 90 (I)