STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) – Atalanta fell to late heartache against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday evening in a game wherein they really needed to take maximum points, wasting a one-goal lead to lose 2-1.
After suffering a hammering at Dinamo Zagreb in the opening game, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side returned to Italy knowing that they had to make their home advantage count in Lombardia to have a chance at progression but despite Duvan Zapata heading them into the lead, they weren’t able to hold on and Shakhtar escaped with the points.
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With a quarter of an hour on the clock Atalanta were handed the perfect opportunity to take the lead. String-pullers Alejandro Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic engaged a gorgeous exchange of passes which led to the Slovenian being fouled. VAR was consulted, the penalty stood, but Ilicic himself stepped up and saw his effort saved by Andriy Pyatov.
La Dea kept probing though and nobody, Ilicic aside, seemed affected by the setback. He did slip Mario Pasalic through on goal before the half-hour mark though and the Croatian thumped the near post with his strike. The ball stayed alive and Hans Hateboer whipped a cross into the area that Pyatov missed in the air and that man Duvan was on hand to head home for Atalanta first ever Champions League goal.
Then Shakhtar’s chances came. Never watertight at the back, Atalanta allowed the Ukrainians to get through on occasion. Pierluigi Gollini had to be alert to deny Junior Moraes once when set through on the right, but it was an identical situation on the left that saw them level. The No.10 was slotted in by Alan Patrick and he rounded Gollini to roll in, agonisingly out of reach for the despairing Jose Luis Palomino who, at full stretch, couldn’t get enough on the ball to clear.
The visitors started the more comfortable of the two in the second half, but the first strike fell Papu Gomez’s way but his tame shot from the edge of the area was stopped by Pyatov.
More excellent combination play between Timothy Castagne, Marten de Roon and Papu Gomez set the No.10 into space on the right. He crossed low to the near post but Zapata could quite get around the ball with his sliding effort and shot wide. Zapata was again fed through by De Roon midway through the second half but shot straight at Pyatov.
The Bergamaschi broke in stoppage time through Gomez and Muriel, but the Argentinian’s eventual effort was turned behind by Pyatov.
There was still time for the game to be lost. A lethal counterattack moments later caught the Nerazzurri short at the back, allowing Manor Solomon to bundle home from close range.