Atalanta Thrash Napoli in Six-Goal Thriller as Gasperini Is Sent Off

In the second top-six affair of Serie A Round 23, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta claimed bragging rights over Napoli. The flood gates opened in the second half after a goal-averse first period as the Bergamaschi pulled off a 4-2 win.

With Inter comprehensively defeating crosstown rivals Milan, the race for top-four was opened. The Nerazzurri are in pole position with three other UEFA Champions League places available for grabs. Heading into the game, both Atalanta and Napoli were on 40 points and needed the points to be masters of their own destinies.

There were no goals in the first half despite both sides trying their luck. However, there was drama as Gian Piero Gasperini was sent off from the sidelines. It began with Marten de Roon of Atalanta sending in a rash tackle. Matteo Politano was on the turf and in agony. And in the empty stadium, Gasperini’s words echoed louder than they would have normally. Referee Marco Di Bello had a word with the coach and gave him his marching orders after a curt conversation.

La Dea’s night would have gone from bad to worse had Victor Osimhen hit the back of the net moments later. The Nigerian Prince connected with a cross but his goal-bound effort came off the crossbar. The danger was averted but not for long.

Both sides went into the break on equal footing, Atalanta slightly behind given their precarious situation. It would not remain the same for long as the scorers would be brought into action in the remaining 45 minutes.

Luis Muriel was the first to try his luck. He drilled a shot towards the right post but Alex Meret rose to the occasion. When the opportunity arose next time, the Colombian forward sent a lofted pass towards compatriot Duvan Zapata. The burly forward beat his marker and sent a header into the bottom right corner from close range. Advantage Atalanta.

La Dea’s lead did not stay for long as Napoli hit back six minutes later. Matteo Politano sent an inviting ball into the box which fell in Piotr Zielinski’s way. The Polish forward took the ball on the volley and sent a first-time effort down Pierluigi Gollini’s throat. The ball viciously flew into the bottom left corner to make it 1-1.

An hour into the game, both sides were on equal footing. This is where Atalanta pressed the pedal and started dominating the fixture. La Dea’s intensity increased as they pitched tents around Napoli’s third. The goal was on the horizon and familiar faces combined together again.

Luis Muriel took the ball forward and found himself the center of attention of Napoli’s defenders. He released Zapata on the overlap, who then squared the ball in front of the goal. With the Partenopei focused on the Colombian double threat, Robin Gosens was open. The German’s work was cut out for him and his fierce shot was more for show than efficiency.

The second half had seen Muriel showcasing his creative talents, with twenty minutes left in the game, he exhibited his attacking proficiency. The Atalanta number 91 made a fool out of Amir Rahmani, breaking his ankles with his trickery. He then sent a vicious strike on goal, for which Alex Meret’s dive was never going to be sufficient.

La Dea were cruising but in the past, they had shown they can lose their composure. Gennaro Gattuso was hoping for a lapse in concentration. A glimmer of hope was felt by the Blues faithful as Robin Gosens sent one in his own net. Gosens’ poor attempt at sending the ball for a corner gave Napoli hope as the scoreboard read 3-2 at the 76th-minute mark.

However, it would prove to be false hope. Even without Gasperini on the sidelines, Atalanta were never going to play out the minutes and they stood to their guts. As is customary for them, they went forward and were rewarded for their gusto.

Two minutes after conceding the own goal, Gosens should have hit the back of the net but his effort was turned behind by Alex Meret. The resulting corner was swung in by Muriel,  who found Berat Djimsiti. Djimsiti flicked the ball behind and found Cristian Romero, who headed it in from two yards out. The two-goal cushion for the hosts was on the board again.

With the lead in their backpacks, Atalanta gave an exciting account of their footballing pedigree. Their movement had Napoli players catching shadows as La Dea players exchanged one-touch passes and controlled the pace of the game. When the referee blew for full time, Gattuso’s men were relieved for their misery had ended.

In the six-point affair, Gasperini’s men took the plaudits and have set them up favorably for a UEFA Champions League charge. With their dressing room woes behind them, La Dea are playing their best football again. They need to be respected and will cause concern for their fellow rivals.

For Napoli, it’s back to the drawing board. The Partenopei have been on a poor run and this defeat to a direct top-four rival only exacerbates their situation. They have now lost 6 of their last 10 games in all competitions. Despite the improvements made under Gattuso, if the results do not pick up, Aurelio De Laurentiis will jump in to steady the ship. And the eccentric president knows only one way for course correction.



February 21, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 23

SCORERS: 51′ Zapata (A), 58′ Zielinski (N), 64′ Gosens (A), 71′ Muriel (A), 75′ Gosens (A, o.g.), 78′ Romero (A)

ATALANTA (3-4-2-1): Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle (90′ Sutalo), De Roon, Freuler (77′ Pasalic), Gosens; Pessina (83′ Palomino); Muriel (83′ Miranchuk), Zapata (90′ Malinovskyi) (Rossi, Sportiello, Palomino, Lammers; Caldara, Kovalenko, Ruggeri, Ilicic) Coach: Gasperini
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Maksimovic (77′ Koulibaly), Mario Rui (77′ Ghoulam); Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko, Zielinski (84′ Lobotka); Politano, Osimhen, Elmas (62′ Insigne) (Contini, Idasiak, Zedadka, Costanzo, D’Agostino, Cioffi, Labriola) Coach: Gattuso

REFEREE: Mr. Di Bello from Brindisi
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Djimsiti, Gosens (A), Di Lorenzo (N); Red Card: Gasperini (A); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′