Atalanta 4-1 Valencia
Atalanta made their resounding debut in the Champions League Final 16 round by dominating Valencia last night at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
The Orobici were simply ruthless from the jump as they pushed the pace and took advantage of Valencia’s listless defence time and time again.
Hans Hateboer scored a brace for the home team, while Josip Ilicic and Remo Freuler fired in one each to significantly increase Atalanta’s Champions League 2020 odds of making it into the next round.
Before this game, a lot were wondering how Atalanta would fare in the Final 16 since it’s their first time there. But they quickly erased any doubts as their prolific attack carried over when it mattered most.
With the team looking healthier, the Orobici finally found their stride under the guidance of Gian Piero Gasperini, and that should put the rest of the playing field on notice moving forward.
Another solid outing on March 11 should seal the deal for Atalanta barring any unforeseen circumstances, and that should make their loyal fans ecstatic considering that making it this far was deemed a miracle at the first place.
Today, SBOTOP give you the recap of last night’s fixture.
Highlights of the game
Mario Pasalic opened our Champions League 2020 highlights when he received a lovely pass from Josip Ilicic with a counter-attack at the eighth minute. While he was unable to score the goal because of Jaume Domenech’s save, it was a sign of things to come for the Orobici.
Soon at the 16th minute, Alejandro Gomez patiently probed near the penalty area and he threaded a needle past multiple Valencia defenders to find an open Hans Hateboer for a sublime finish. Jose Gaya fell asleep for a split second which gave the Dutch wing-back his first score of the evening.
Valencia had their first real chance during the 30th minute when they executed a misdirection play that found a cutting Ferran Torres for a possible goal, but Jose Palomino got the better of him at the time through a brilliant challenge.
They had another one a few minutes later when Jose Gaya flicked an excellent volley to Goncalo Guedes on the left flank. However, his shot went too wide to the right and Eliaquim Mangala couldn’t guide the ball to the back of the net.
Three minutes before the first half break, Atalanta’s top scorer in Josip Ilicic doubled their advantage with a fine strike, and that sent the crowd into pandemonium.
Remo Freuler opened the second half by scoring one of his own at the 57th minute. Geoffrey Kondogbia wasn’t able to clear the ball out and that paved the way for the Orobici to counter and score their third goal of the evening.
Atalanta committed one rare mistake last evening when Pierluigi Gollini cleared the ball to the wrong person, but he was able to make amends when he saved a short-range shot by Ferran Torres.
They were able to make a quick turnaround through their exquisite passing. Hans Hateboer received a backheel pass which led to him racing at front all alone for a cool finish to score his brace at the 62nd minute.
For consolation, Denis Cheryshev scored Valencia’s only goal of the match when Jose Palomino failed to clear the ball and made a wrong pass.
Cheryshev would have one more crack at it when Ferran Torres volleyed a pass to the penalty area. However, Pierluigi Gollini showed great reflexes by slapping the ball away for one more save.
Valencia couldn’t get any more chances from there and it was such a disappointing night for Albert Celades’ men.
Surprisingly, Valencia had more shots (18) and lesser fouls (9) compared to Atalanta, but the latter made more passes (487) and controlled 52-per cent of the possession.
Valencia have lost their third consecutive game against an Italian side in European competition for the first since 2000. They have also been lacklustre on the road in the Champions League too (D4, L6).
Atalanta, on the other hand, have won their third straight match in European competition for the first time in their history.
Alejandro Gomez enjoyed his first taste of Champions League action at the age of 32. He may have not scored any goals last night, but he was a vital cog to their attack.
Atalanta will host Sassuolo this Sunday for their next Serie A match as they try to sneak into the top three of the standings.
On the other hand, Valencia will continue their La Liga journey as they’ll clash with Real Sociedad on the road on Sunday.
These two sides will meet again on March 11 for the second leg of the Champions League Final 16 knockouts.
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