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Champions League: Four-Goal Ilicic Guides Atalanta Into Quarter-Final

Josip Atalanta’s Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic celebrates after scoring in the course of the UEFA Champions League spherical of 16 second leg match between Valencia CF and Atalanta at Estadio Mestalla on March 10, 2020 in Valencia. POOL UEFA / AFP


Atalanta’s fairytale Champions League run continued inside an empty stadium on Tuesday as Josip Ilicic scored 4 occasions in a Four-Three win over Valencia that despatched his group into the quarter-finals Eight-Four on mixture.

A frantic contest inside an echoing Mestalla stadium was the primary of a number of within the competitors to be performed behind closed doorways as a result of coronavirus, with 55,000 vacant seats making a surreal ambiance that was by no means prone to ship a momentous Valencia comeback.

They’d been tasked with overturning a Four-1 defeat from the opening sport in Italy and any hopes had been all-but dashed inside 90 seconds when Mouctar Diakhaby conceded the primary of two penalties, every transformed by Ilicic.

In between, Kevin Gameiro had levelled for Valencia after which scored once more shortly after half-time earlier than Ferran Torres lobbed in to go away the hosts needing three in simply over 20 minutes.

But any probability of a revival was rapidly snuffed out as Ilicic accomplished his hat-trick and added a fourth to make sure Atalanta ended an odd night with their names within the draw on March 20.

The Slovenia worldwide additionally grew to become the primary participant to attain 4 occasions away from dwelling in a Champions League knockout match.

Atalanta’s progress stays the best shock of this yr’s event, wherein they misplaced all three of their opening group video games and are that includes for the primary time within the membership’s 113-year historical past.

“After a difficult start to this competition, we got the hang of it,” mentioned coach Gian Piero Gasperini afterwards.

All of the extra the disgrace then that their advance on the again of two good victories over Valencia was overshadowed by the sight of a Champions League knock-out tie being performed with solely a handful of stadium workers within the stands.

 Unusual ambiance 

The shouts of the gamers had been audible all through whereas within the first half Valencia seemingly projected crowd noise by a sound system, though it was later turned off when hopes of a comeback had disappeared.

Valencia’s supporters had gathered outdoors the stadium earlier than kick-off to welcome the group bus however none had been allowed inside. Atalanta are primarily based in Bergamo in northern Italy, one of many worst-hit areas in a rustic that has had 631 folks killed by the virus thus far.

After the ultimate whistle, the gamers held up a shirt to a tv digicam that had the message, “Bergamo, this is for you!” written throughout the entrance.

“We are very happy with how we have represented a region that suffers so much,” mentioned Gasperini.

Spain introduced on Monday that every one colleges within the Madrid space will shut on Wednesday whereas La Liga had confirmed earlier on Tuesday that every one matches within the high two divisions will probably be performed behind closed doorways for 2 weeks no less than.

The sense of deflation at not having any followers available was not possible to disregard as a result of earlier than even two minutes had been up, Valencia had been behind.

Diakhaby slid in to dam Ilicic’s dummy-shot and scythed down the striker as he turned again. Ilicic drove the penalty down the center for his 18th objective of the season.

Valencia equalised after Atalanta conceded possession cheaply in midfield and Rodrigo slid in Gameiro to complete, however Ilicic transformed a second penalty earlier than half-time, after Diakhaby feathered the ball together with his hand.

Gameiro made it 2-2 by heading in Torres’ cross after which Torres discovered the online himself, lifting the ball over Marco Sportiello to present Valencia some hope with 23 minutes left.

However 4 minutes later, Ilicic accomplished his treble with a pushed shot into the nook and with progress secured, he grabbed the win too when the ball spilled out to him on the again put up and he guided it into the highest nook.


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