Conor Clancy Date: 10th March 2020 at 10:52pm
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A 4-3 win at an empty Mestalla on Tuesday evening ensured Atalanta remarkably clinched their place in the Champions League quarter-finals, progressing with an 8-4 aggregate win.

La Dea were always well placed after an impressive 4-1 thumping of the Spaniards in the first leg, and they made sure they got the job done in Spain thanks largely to four goals from Josip Ilicic, who added to his strike in the first leg.

Progression sees the Bergamaschi become the first Champions League debutants to reach the quarter-finals since Leicester City achieved the same in 2017 after Claudio Ranieri had led them to the 2015/16 Premier League title.

The game had barely kicked off before Valencia did what they really couldn’t afford to and gifted Atalanta a chance to score.

Ilicic sharply reversed a run headed for the byline to cut back towards goal and left Mouctar Diakhaby dumbstruck. The Frenchman left a leg hanging loose and fouled the Slovenian.

Ilicic himself stepped up to convert from the spot and give La Dea their much coveted away goal with less than three minutes played and, all of a sudden, Valencia needed five.

The goal understandably deflated Valencia in front of their empty stadium, though crowd noises were heard as UEFA apparently allowed for the La Liga side to use pre-recorded sounds in an attempt to make the atmosphere a little closer to the norm.

Rodrigo Moreno forced a save from stand-in goalkeeper Marco Sportiello with a powerful strike from range, which the Italian parried.

Valencia drew level on the night midway through the half. Rodrigo looked to find Kevin Gameiro with a neat through ball but Jose Luis Palomino intercepted on the slide.

The Argentinian couldn’t get the ball under control though and it did come loose again for Gameiro to finish.

Alejandro Papu Gomez and Mario Pasalic both had attempts for Atalanta, but neither could find the target.

Diakhaby’s nightmare continued as he conceded a second penalty for a handball. Again it was Ilicic who assumed responsibility and, uncharacteristically given his side’s record from the spot, he tucked it away again to give them a four goal aggregate lead.

The familiar faces were troubling the Spaniards again and Remo Freuler looked to score the goal of the night, just as he had at the Stadio San Siro.

But although the Swiss international beat Jasper Cillessen, his strike crashed off the crossbar and over.

Gameiro restored parity between the sides and between himself and Ilicic as he got Valencia’s second.

A pinpoint cross from Ferran Torres on the right found the Frenchman inside six yard and he headed beyond Sportiello.

Ilicic was denied by Pasalic in search of his hat-trick. Papu Gomez found Duvan Zapata in the box with his back to goal but after the Colombian teed up the No.72 his shot bounced off Pasalic and away.

Ferran did then put Los Che ahead for the first time on the night with a fine finish of his own.

Dani Parejo put the Spaniard through and with Sportiello coming out to meet him, he did well to delicately lob the goalkeeper from the edge of the area.

Cillessen pulled off a great stop on Zapata to maintain the scoreline. Hans Hateboer sent the forward in on the right but his low strike across goal was denied by Cillessen’s outstretched leg.

There was little the Dutchman could do as Ilicic beat him for the third time within a minute of his heroics on Zapata.

The game had become stretched and Duvan got free on the right. He centred for the Slovenian who had options but chose to go himself and he made no mistake as he fired low into the corner.

A fourth followed soon after. Freuler broke towards the box and played it right to Ilicic who, expectedly, picked out Cillessen’s top corner this time.

Zapata had a chance to put a seal on things late on but fired over from the edge of the box.