An inspired Ilicic and hat-trick hero Duvan Zapata helped Atalanta to a 7-2 win over Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare on Sunday afternoon.
With the Serie A schedule decimated by the Coronavirus outbreak in Northern Italy, which resulted in five matches being postponed, La Dea felt no effects with a clinical display in front of goal.
Two Ilicic corners were headed home, first by Lecce defender Giulio Donati then Zapata. The Slovenian then got himself on the scoresheet in the second half, before the Colombian frontman got another two in eight minutes. Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi completed the rout in the final minutes.
As a result, Atalanta remain fourth in the Serie A table, six points clear of Roma, while Lecce remain three points above the relegation zone, though they have now played two matches more than Sampdoria, and one more than Genoa.
It was Atalanta who took a two-goal lead with both goals coming from two Josip Ilicic corners. First the Slovenian whipped a ball into to the area and Donati headed past a helpless Gabriel. Then five minutes later another corner from Ilicic found Zapata who also headed past Gabriel.
From there it looked as if Atalanta would run away with the match, but a long ball from Alessandro Deiola was picked up by Saponara on the edge of the area, and the 28-year-old brilliantly curled an effort past Pierluigi Gollini to get his first Serie A goal in 449 days.
Just before the break, Saponara picked out Donati on the edge of the box, and the defender’s low strike found the back of the net to restore parity.
After the restart, Atalanta came flying out the blocks and retook the lead when Ilicic got to a Papu Gomez shot which had been saved by Gabriel, and fell perfectly for the No.72 to knock into the empty net.
Zapata had his second of the game when Ilicic played Mario Pasalic in down the right and he drove low across goal to the unmarked Colombian, who only had to touch past Gabriel from close range.
Then just after the hour it was five for La Dea and three for Zapata when Ilicic and Gomez combined on the edge of the area, and the Slovenian looped a ball to Atalanta’s No.91 and he once more beat Gabriel.
Panagoitis Tachtsidis went close with a rasping effort from 20 yards out, and at the other end Luis Muriel did have the ball in the back of the net once more for Atalanta, and after a VAR check for offside, referee Davide Massa awarded the goal.
And finally, Malinovskyi added a seventh in time added on with a low drive past Gabriel.