A second half Papu Gomez strike gave Atalanta a 2-1 win over Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final on Thursday, securing a 5-4 aggregate victory and a spot in the Final.
Josip Ilicic had drilled Atalanta level against his former club in the first half to cancel out an early Luis Muriel strike, before Gomez’s effort from the edge of the box was fumbled in by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
The two sides played out an enthralling encounter at the Stadio Atletico Azzurri d’Italia, just weeks after they had delivered a spectacular 3-3 draw in the first leg, as the hosts booked a date against Lazio for the trophy.
Fiorentina and those with Betfred promotion codes could not have wished for a better start as they raced into the lead with barely two minutes gone. Federico Chiesa exploited a gaping hole behind Atalanta’s midfield to thread the ball between centre-backs Andrea Masiello and Berat Djimsiti, and the on-rushing Muriel made no mistake in stroking home.
A bright start almost got even better when Jordan Veretout lead a rapid counterattack from a corner to sprint the length of the pitch, but was denied in the box by a strong Pierluigi Gollina block.
Moments later, the hosts were level as the increasingly influential Ilicic rifled in from the spot. Finding Papu Gomez in the box to swivel and force a Ceccherini foul, the Slovenian hit the bottom corner with a vicious penalty.
The goal breathed new life into La Dea and they began to dominate, with Gomez and Duvan Zapata both coming close with efforts in the area. As half-time approached, Atalanta ought to have taken the lead as Robin Gosens rose to meet a floated cross at the back post, but could only nod across the face of goal.
As in the first period, Fiorentina began the second half on the attack and almost went ahead instantly. Driving forward, Chiesa slipped Marco Benassi through in the box but the midfielder saw his low strike well blocked by Gollini.
Yet it was Atalanta who would come closest before the hour mark, as Gomez worked space for himself on the edge of the box and had a bending effort beaten away.
The tie was put beyond all doubt midway through the second half as Gomez dragged his side over the line, courtesy of a howler by Viola goalkeeper Lafont. After a freekick came back to him out wide, the Argentine pushed forward and struck from range, seeing the ball bounce off the sprawling Lafont and over the line.
Despite requiring two goals to progress, Fiorentina struggled to contain Atalanta and were unable to close the gap, despite Chiesa coming close with a late effort.
Inspired Ilicic the difference maker
A knee injury meant he was a doubt before kick-off, but there was no way Josip Ilicic was missing a Coppa Italia Semi-Final against his former club. The Slovenian was in imperious form, with some magical touches drawing foul after foul and splitting Fiorentina’s defence apart.
The ex-Palermo midfielder played his part in the victory by releasing Papu Gomez in the build up to the penalty, before coolly smashing the spotkick into the bottom corner to drive Atalanta into the Final.
However, a late half-volley saw him clutch his knee again and he was forced off with injury. Atalanta fans will be praying that their star man has not paid the price for getting them into the Final.
Atalanta aiming for first Coppa Italia in half a century
Victory put La Dea in the Final, where Lazio await, and the opportunity to write history for this proud club. Making a first appearance on the big stage since 1996, the Bergamo club have only lifted the trophy once, way back in 1963.
Indeed, it marks only a fourth appearance in the Coppa Italia Final, with their only other appearance, in 1987, ending in a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Napoli.
The chance of success at the Stadio Olimpico in May is vindication for the attractive style of play and investment in youth by coach Gian Piero Gasperini, with one of the most exciting teams in Serie A having a shot at a trophy to show for their commendable approach.