Atalanta’s 4-1 win over Valencia in their Champions League last 16 first leg won’t be forgotten anytime soon by Gian Piero Gasperini or anyone associated with the club.
In their first ever season in the Champions League, the game was Atalanta’s first knockout game in the competition but there were no signs of nerves as they came out flying, taking a lead with just a quarter of an hour played.
They didn’t let up though and kept pressing the La Liga side, going on to take a 4-0 lead before conceding to Denis Cheryshev, and the whole night was a moving experience for Gasperini.
“We all did this together,” he said at his post-match press conference, “we moved so many people, we had great enthusiasm and it showed at the stadium.
“We hoped to give them a win and a big result came. This is an evening we’ll all remember for a long time, but the result is the greatest gift.
“As we arrived at the stadium on the coach we saw extraordinary enthusiasm.
“Winning made this unforgettable, because if we lost…”
The Nerazzurri are now well placed to progress to the quarter-finals, but Gasperini knows there’s a lot of work to be done yet.
“Nobody denies that 4-1 is an excellent result,” he said when asked about how they’d approach the second leg in Spain.
“From a technical point of view we’ll have to be good, but we can’t face a 90-minute siege, it’s not in our characteristics.”
Berat Djimsiti was forced to drop out of the XI in the warmup with an injury, leading to Mattia Caldara’s late inclusion.
Caldara was withdrawn late on for Duvan Zapata, despite Atalanta holding a 4-1 lead and trying to keep out a second away goal, but Gasperini says his hand was forced.
“I had no defenders left,” he responded when asked if the Colombian’s introduction was done to increase the margin further.
“Djimsiti had a muscular problem, but Caldara had an excellent game.
“I put [Marten] De Roon in the back three because I had to adapt and in the end we were quite solid.”