Bryan Cristante sealed Atalanta’s place in the First Knockout Round of the Europa League, with his early goal setting the Italians on their way to an easy 5-1 victory at a sparsely filled Goodison Park.
La Dea arrived in Liverpool knowing that a point would see them progress from Group E, and Cristante’s early tap in settled any early nerves against an already eliminated Everton side. After Alejandro Gomez saw his second half penalty saved, Cristante nodded home to seal the win and put the Bergamo club through.
A thrilling encounter saw both sides have chances cleared off the line, and Everton looked to spoil Atalanta’s historic night when Sandro Ramirez fired in low with a quarter of the game remaining.
The Serie A side took full control of the contest late on though, courtesy of rapid goals by substitutes Robin Gosens and Andreas Cornelius. The latter secured his brace deep into injury time to rub salt into Everton’s wound and complete the rout.
With nothing to play for, Everton looked to take the game to their visitors and spent the opening exchanges camped in Atalanta’s half. However, it was the Italian outfit that came closest to opening the scoring. Andrea Masiello met Gomez’s deflected cross from a short corner, but his looping header dropped over the crossbar.
Indeed, it only took 12 minutes for Atalanta to break the deadlock. Timothy Castagne burst past Cuca Martina down the right with ease, before breaking into the box and cutting the ball back for Cristante to tap into an empty net. La Dea were aided by dreadful defending, as Everton’s centre-backs were caught out of position, and accepted the opportunity with glee.
The goal left the Toffees deflated and killed the early momentum they had been looking to build. Their opening half hour was summed up perfectly as Kevin Mirallas dribbled into the box and shot low to force a block from Berisha. The rebound fell to Sandro, but the summer signing blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
However, only a stunning Rafael Toloi goalline clearance preserved Atalanta’s lead. Tom Davies collected Masiello’s defensive clearance and fired in from close range, only for Toloi to dive across and get his head to the ball on the line, preventing a certain goal.
With barely two minutes gone in the second half, the visitors were given a chance to double their lead from the spot. The dangerous Cristante charged into the box and was hacked down by Ashley Williams. However, Gomez’s low penalty was stopped by Robles, and the goalkeeper leapt up to block the follow up effort from close range.
Gomez’s in-swinging corner forced a fine one-handed save that fell to Cristante, and the goalscorer aimed an accurate header towards the bottom corner. Only Jonjoe Kenny’s quick reactions kept the ball out as the youngster threw his body in the way.
Atalanta secured their place in the next round on the hour mark when Cristante glanced Gomez’s corner with the back of his head and doubled the lead.
Everton were handed a lifeline as Sandro registered his first goal for the Blues. Mirallas found space wide on the right after a sumptuous long-range Wayne Rooney pass, and the Belgian picked out Sandro in the box. A fine first touch allowed the forward to open space and fire across goal into the bottom corner.
The hosts had a new-found sense of belief and Sandro came close to doubling his tally for the club, as his vicious drive from Nikola Vlasic’s tee up forced a good save.
However, Atalanta sealed the three points late on in some style. Yet another Gomez corner was cleared to the edge of the box, where the lurking Gosens showed incredible technique to volley across his body through a crowded penalty area and hit the back of the net via the post.
It was soon a drubbing, as La Dea struck again moments later. Cornelius collected a smart Mattia Caldara through ball before cutting onto his right foot and firing through Robles’ legs. The Dane secured his second of the night in stoppage time as he met Gomez’s corner to nod home with ease.