How Atalanta defeated Liverpool to set-up semi-final clash with Marseille

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta BC will feature in one part of the semi-finals of the 2023/2024 UEFA Europa League against Olympique

By Raghu
8 Min Read
How Atalanta defeated Liverpool to set-up semi-final clash with Marseille | Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta BC will feature in one part of the semi-finals of the 2023/2024 UEFA Europa League against Olympique de Marseille having bested Liverpool FC over the dual-legged ties in England and Italy.

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Four years after embarking on a most remarkable campaign in the UEFA Champions League. That Atalanta side getting stopped in their tracks by eventual finalists Paris Saint-Germain. Two stoppage-time goals in the space of three minutes from Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting conveniently canceled out Mario Pasalic’s earlier goal to deny them a place in the final.

Stepping down from that side that boasted the likes of Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, Duvan Zapata, Ruslan Malinovskyi, and the likes, Gasperini has gradually restructured his team to the current phase they stand.

They now have a close shot at silverware in the form of the Europa League and given the ‘giants’ they defeated to get to this stage, there will be a growing mentality in the squad that they can go all the way. Atalanta tickets are also one of the most sought-after ahead of the semifinal fixtures in the competition.

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Atalanta in the Europa League this season

Their domestic exploits in the Serie A have not quite been the showing sitting outside the Champions League zone by a margin of points. However, continentally has been where the juice has kicked in and where they have looked very strong and formidable.

The Italian outfit came out top of their group campaign and settled for a knockout tie with high-flying Sporting CP. Over both legs, the impressive form of Italian forward Gianluca Scamacca was on show, finding two of the three goals in either leg while former Everton forward Ademola Lookman added the last.

Setting up a tie with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the quarter-final, Atalanta entered the game as overwhelming underdogs to the quadruple-chasing side. 

Liverpool vs Atalanta in Merseyside

The initial leg of the encounter took place in Merseyside. Big names in Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among an array of stars on the Liverpool bench. 

Atalanta started on the strong foot as Mario Pasalic clawed his way into the box three minutes in. His poor finish however came off the face of Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher. 

Both sides continued with end-to-end football as they tried to break the deadlock. That breakthrough eventually came via Gianluca Scamacca on the cusp of the 38th minute connecting with Davide Zappacosta’s low-fizzled drive into the area.

That goal concluded the action of the first half with a hurriedly spotted Jurgen Klopp at halftime introducing Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboslai, and Andy Robertson after the break.

Liverpool’s charge of finding an equalizer indefinitely presented Atalanta with more chances to have a shot at their goal. Teun Koopmeiners and Gianluca Scamacca squandered a couple of opportunities. 

Eventually, the latter left unmarked in the 18-yard box after an hour of play and buried another delightful finish to rack up a brace for the night.

Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz were also put into action in a bid to get something out of the game. However, it just never came on the night with Harvey Elliott hitting the crossbar, Mo Salah’s disallowed goal and missed chances all around. Mario Pasalic put the cherry on as he capitalized on a defensive error to net a third at the famous Anfield ground. 

Perhaps rotation, perhaps fatigue, the English heavyweights produced an abysmal showing on home ground missing a flurry of chances — an established pattern with their incumbent season.

With tales and folklore of Liverpool FC being the mentality monsters in European football, a lot of attention followed the build-up to the game. The 3-3 Istanbul miracle against AC Milan, the 4-0 comeback victory against Barcelona, and even their last appearance in the competition saw the ecstatic comeback against Borussia Dortmund.

Atalanta lost in Bergamo but moved on

Jurgen Klopp, set to depart at the end of the season fielded a very strong XI with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker returning from respective injuries. Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz taking the spots on either side of Dutch forward Cody Gakpo. Curtis Jones, Alexis Mac Allister, and Dominik Szoboslai rounded off the midfield contingent.

Liverpool found the game’s first through Mo Salah’s penalty in the 7th minute as Matteo Ruggeri was judged to have handled the ball in the area. The goal provided enough motivation to head for another fairytale run. A lack of clinicality however stood between the Reds and more goals in the opening half.

The return half saw a different showing with Atalanta shoring up their defence, sitting deep and comfortable ceding possession. Desperation and frustration led to more changes in Klopp’s outfit. Regardless, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side looked to be on cruise control and rode out the game.

A season with plenty to play for 

Their impressive UEL campaign showing so far reflects the tactical onus and flexibility of gaffer Gasperini in taking games head-on as they come. Employing different approaches in the knockout ties to both Sporting and Liverpool. In the return leg against the latter side, they’re more than happy to sit back and slow down the high tempo of Klopp’s team. The first leg however saw a style of high pressing and quick third man combinations to capitalize on an unsettled Liverpool.

Also, the quality of recruitment across the previous summer. Belgian wonderkid Charles De Ketelaere joined on loan from AC Milan and has since rekindled the form that earned him a move from Club Brugge. Boasting 13 goal involvements in just 22 league starts.

Another is West Ham United flop Gianluca Scamacca who has popped up with important games across the entirety of the season.

Having secured a spot in the domestic cup final against Juventus, up next is to stage a claim in the continental tournament on offer to make whatever is left of their season and probably a UEFA Champions League qualification spot.