Atalanta Come From Behind To Shatter Lazio Title Hopes

The question is: When are they going to stop? Every time you think Atalanta have reached their limit, the Orobici seem to be pushing that limit further. Tonight’s exploit was collecting the scalp of Lazio, inflicting a hard blow to the Biancocelesti’s hopes of contending the Scudetto to Juventus.    

Atalanta beat Lazio 3-2 at the Gewiss Stadium, coming back from a 0-2 deficit by means of Robin Gosens, Ruslan Malinkvskyi, and José Palomino’s goals. It may sound like an easy cliché, but it’s refreshing to see how the Nerazzurri from Bergamo are continuing to lift the morale of a city among the most dramatically impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

For Simone Inzaghi’s Biancocelesti, this was a trial of fire. They needed to win not to lose track of first-placed Juventus and keep their Scudetto dream alive. They couldn’t hope for any worst opponent for their restart, however, as they visited an Atalanta side which had picked up just from where they’d left off before the coronavirus – scoring loads of goals in a 4-1 win over Sassuolo on Sunday.

Lazio, on the other hand, were at their first test after the pandemic break. Losing it after giving away a two-goal lead might have a strong impact on their morale, going far beyond the three points they lost on the pitch. Juventus now lead with a four-point advantage over Simone Inzaghi’s squad. It’s not going to be easy for the coach to put Lazio’s pieces back together.

Atalanta-Lazio It was meant to be a great game, and a great game it was. Lazio hit the gas fast and climbed up to a double lead in just 10 minutes. Atalanta slowly worked their way back, managing to level in the second half and then striking with José Palomino when the Biancocelesti run out of breath.

Few could have imagined that, when Atalanta and Lazio would face each other in Serie A Round 26, it might have been a battle worth a Scudetto. When the pair met in October 2019, they had already staged a spectacular game, with Lazio coming back from 0-3 to equalize during stoppage time. They were served the same recipe tonight. Revenge is best served chilled.

Coach Gian Piero Gasperini, replaced by second in command Tullio Gritti for the occasion as he was serving a one-match ban, chose Ruslan Malinovskyi in place of Josip Ilicic and José Palomino instead of Mattia Caldara in his three-man defensive line – the latter proving to be a pretty good choice. Simone Inzaghi’s only unexpected starter was Danilo Cataldi on the midfield line.

Lazio seemed off to a bad start when goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha’s attempted suicide with a wrong pass made Duvan Zapata free to shot right in front of him. Atalanta’s Colombian striker, however, incredibly missed despite having a wide target ahead of him.

Right one minute later, Simone Inzaghi’s Eagles produced themselves in a lightning-quick breakaway that prompted Martin De Roon to net into his own goal while attempting to clear Joaquin Correa’s cross from the right.

Then, in the 11th minute, a devastating right-foot curl by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic hit the target past Pierluigi Gollini and doubled Lazio’s lead. What a start. Lazio were doing their homework, first stunning the opponent and then going for the kill early in the game. The fuel in their tank ended too early though.

Atalanta tried to react by building their play with ball possession and fast passes but the visitors made themselves more dangerous, risking hitting them again by counterattack every time the Nerazzurri attempted to show their faces past the midfield line. Ciro Immobile went close to score twice in the space of two minutes, showing that the stop didn’t affect his hunger to increase his personal tally in the top scorer race.

The Nerazzurri gave some life signs in the 23rd minute, when a lovely exchange between Alejandro Gomez and Remo Freuler produced their first clear chance, with El Papu’s shot hitting Strakosha. Lazio’s Albanian goalkeeper soon had to intervene again, diving to deflect Ruslan Malinovskyi’s challenge.

After a save by Pierluigi Gollini, who had to slide-tackle Ciro Immobile to prevent him from catching a perfectly-time filtering bass by Joaquín Correa, the Bergamaschi reduced the gap. Atalanta’s efforts resulted in a brilliant header by Robin Gosens from a cross by Hans Hateboer after 38 minutes of play. The ball bounced past Strakosha, who appeared a little slow in going for the save, to deliver the Bergamaschi defender his fifth seasonal goal.

After a restart with no changes in either lineup, Simone Inzaghi introduced Felipe Caicedo in the 54th minute, pulling off Joaquín Correa. Danilo Cataldi soon raised a white flag due to a hamstring injury, forcing his coach to make another change: Veteran Marco Parolo took the field.

In the 65th minute, a blast out of nowhere from Ruslan Malinovskiy rebalanced the score at 2-2. The Ukrainian’s left-foot shot from out of the box was lethal, but again Thomas Strakosha seemed pretty much caught by surprise and slow to react.

Then it was time for coach Gritti to make his first changes: Luis Muriel replaced Duvan Zapata, while Robin Gosens gave way to Timothy Castagne. More substitutions followed, with Inzaghi sending in Jordan Lukaku, André Anderson, and Bastos, while Tullio Gritti put in Josip Ilicic.

It was José Palomino, however, to decide the fate of the game as he converted with a powerful header a corner kick, a finish made easier by both Lazio’s Thomas Strakosha and Felipe Caicedo poor defensive job in the occasion.

Lazio’s shock risked conceding Atalanta the fourth, but Strakosha managed to deflect Timothy Castagne’s late challenge this time, with the Biancocelesti totally unbalanced and desperately looking for an equalizer that never came.

Simone Inzaghi failed the test, whereas Gasperini’s boys brilliantly passed theirs – despite the absence of their master. So, the question for Atalanta, now fourth in the table with a comfortable six-point lead over Roma, once again is: When are they going to stop?


June 24, 2020 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 26

SCORERS: 5′ De Roon (A, o.g.), 11′ Milinkovic-Savic (L), 38′ Gosens (A), 66′ Malinovskyi (A), 80′ Palomino (A)

ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens (69′ Castagne); Malinovskyi (77′ Ilicic); Gomez, Zapata (70′ Muriel) (Sportiello, Rossi, Bellanova, Caldara, Colley, Czyborra, Sutalo, Tameze) Coach: Gasperini (replaced by Gritti)
LAZIO (3-5-2): Strakosha; Patric, Acerbi, Radu (77′ Bastos); Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Cataldi (60′ Parolo), Luis Alberto (77′ A. Anderson), Jony (77′ J. Lukaku); Correa (55′ Caicedo), Immobile. (Proto, D. Anderson, Armini, Falbo, Guerrieri, Parolo, Silva, Vavro) Coach: S. Inzaghi.

REFEREE: Mr. Orsato from Schio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Toloi, De Roon (A), Milinkovic-Savic, Patric (L); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 5′

Feature Photo: © AFP