Josip Ilicic was near his best as he inspired Atalanta to a 4-1 victory away at Benevento on Saturday, helping La Dea to temporarily climb into Serie A’s top four.
In Papu Gomez’s continued absence, Ilicic’s importance to Atalanta has increased tenfold, and the Slovenian was unplayable for much of the afternoon in Campania. The conditions at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito were far from ideal, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching Ilicic’s performance, as he elegantly glided across the surface seamlessly, showing incredible control throughout.
Lorenzo Montipo had to be at his best to keep the visitors out early on, but Ilicic found a way past with a shot that deflected off Kamil Glik after he had weaved his way into the box.
Atalanta had more chances fall their way, but a combination of Montipo playing well, the post denying Ilicic, and they themselves being wasteful afforded Gli Stregoni the chance to level shortly after the break, with Marco Sau sliding in to meet a cross at the back post and convert under Pierluigi Gollini.
Rafael Toloi passed up a big opportunity and Duvan Zapata had a goal ruled out for offside before both eventually got their goals within two minutes of one another. Toloi’s came first, as he was placed well to turn in the rebound after Montipo had done well to deny Ilicic.
The Slovenian was again the provider shortly after, putting in a perfect ball to the back post that Zapata turned home.
Zapata was then replaced by compatriot Luis Muriel who, as he so often does, made a huge impact off the bench. He had chances evade him, but got on the scoresheet with an excellent strike, as he fired into the top corner having cut in from the left on the edge of the area.