In his first season in charge of the Nerazzurri, Jose Mourinho had already secured the Scudetto for Inter with five games left to play in the season.
As the last match of the 2008-09 season came around, Inter were hosting Atalanta at San Siro in Luis Figo’s farewell game, as the legendary Portuguese winger was set to play the last match of his career.
Luigi Delneri’s Atalanta side was looking to tend a disappointing season on a positive note and was in full-mood to ruin Figo’s farewell at San Siro. Going into the match sitting eleventh place in the league table, the Bergamo side were looking to end their season on a positive note and finish the season inside top ten.
Former Inter striker, Christian Vieri was also set to play the last match of his career with Atalanta, in a place where he had many memorable performances in front of a packed crowd. It was surely going to be an emotional day at San Siro.
As the players made their way onto the field, Luis Figo got a standing ovation and a guard of honor from all the players in honor of his last game and cap off a remarkable career. Captain Javier Zanetti gave Figo the captain’s armband in front of a packed San Siro crowd, as a sign of respect.
Mourinho had Inter lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Ibrahimovic as sole striker and Balotelli, Figo on either side to form the attacking trident. Midfield trio was Cambiasso, Stankovic, and Muntari. Julio Cesar in goal and defensive line of Zanetti, Cordoba, Samuel, and Chivu.
Luigi Delneri, had the Bergamo side lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation. With the leading goal scorer, Sergio Floccari out injured, Atalanta had Gianvito Plasmati as the lone striker and Captain Cristiano Doni as a trequartista. Midfield consisted off Marino Defendi, Luca Cigarini, Tiberio Guarente, and Simone Padoin. Andrea Consigli in goal with Gyorgy Garics, Leonardo Talamonti, Thomas Manfredini and Gianpaolo Bellini forming the defense.
It didn’t take long for the Nerazzurri to take the lead. Figo’s run to right corner with a searching cross into the middle for Ibrahimovic was intercepted and batted away by goalkeeper Andrea Consigli.
However he only managed to parry it straight to the middle of the box, where a late run from Sulley Muntari allowed him to shoot the ball in bottom left corner for an easy 1-0 lead inside first six minutes.
Inter failed to capitalize on the early lead and Atalanta fought back immediately and level the score four minutes later when captain Cristiano Doni put the ball into the net from a powerful header following a corner kick.
With two goals already on the board and game all tied, Cambiasso played a beautiful lobbed pass to Ibrahimovic who got in behind Atalanta defense. With a one-on-one opportunity to score, Zlatan confidently struck the ball past an on-rushing Consigli to give Inter the lead yet again inside twelve minutes.
The end to end action in the first half continued and Atalanta continued fighting back to level it yet again. Following a clearance from Ivan Cordoba, Luca Cigarini received the ball outside the box and struck the ball on the volley to score a beautiful long-range shot, beating Julio Cesar to tie the game at 2-2 going into the half-time.
As play resumed in the second half, Delneri was forced to make a change in goal as Consigli had to be substituted out of the game due to injury. But, the visiting side was unphased by the home crowd and odds stacked against them and took the lead at the fifty-three-minute mark as Cristiano Doni scored from a free-kick just outside the penalty box to give the away side a remarkable 2-3 lead.
With their backs against the wall at home, Mourinho made some adjustments to the line-up, bringing on Crespo for Stankovic and Maicon for Chivu, both players providing more options to score and get back in the match. With the lead in hand, Atalanta focused all their energy to preserve the lead and secure three valuable points away against the Champions.
With the home side going full force ahead on all cylinders looking for a game-tying goal, the half-time substitution and injury to first-choice goalkeeper came back to haunt the visitors. Backup goalkeeper Ferdinando Coppola gave up a rebound following a long-range strike by Balotelli, which went straight to a wide open Cambiasso who tied the game up 3-3 with ten minutes remaining in the match.
Soon after the tying goal, Hernan Crespo crossed the ball to Ibrahimovic who was trailed by multiple Atalanta defenders, but still managed to create some space with his physical presence and back-heeled the ball into the bottom left corner, scoring a spectacular goal to give Inter the lead with nine minutes remaining.
San Siro erupted after witnessing an unbelievable goal to give the home side the win in spectacular fashion. Inter went on to win the game 4-3 thanks to that brace from Ibrahimovic who finished the season as the Serie A’s top goalscorer with 25 league goals to his name, one ahead of Genoa’s Diego Milito.