Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen 3-2: Luis Muriel Stages La Dea Comeback

Atalanta came out on top of a topsy-turvy encounter against Bayer Leverkusen to grab a 3-2 win in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men took Bergamo fans through an emotional rollercoaster, but they will carry a slender lead into the return leg in Germany.

Leverkusen came off strong as Charles Aranguiz hit a cross-bar from a free-kick only nine minutes into the game. Only two minutes after, the Chilean midfielder slotted home an inch-perfect mid-range effort to break the deadlock and put Gerardo Seoane’s side in front.

However, Atalanta replied in the 23rd minute through Ukrainian playmaker Ruslan Malinovskyi, who found himself one-on-one with a keeper after receiving a killer pass from Luis Muriel. La Dea’s blitzkrieg caught Leverkusen stunned, with the Colombian forward completing the comeback just two minutes later to give the Italians’ a half-time lead.

Inspired by a rock-solid first-half display, Atalanta picked up where they left off after the break. Only four minutes into the second half, Muriel’s curled effort found its way into the bottom left corner, doubling the home side’s advantage.

But Leverkusen once again proved they are no quitters. Lightning-quick winger Moussa Diaby struck the ball perfectly from the edge of the box, sending it inside the left post to give Die Werkself everything to play for in the second leg at the BayArena.

Atalanta got close to restoring a two-goal cushion in the dying moments of the game, but Rafael Toloi’s bullet header went well wide off the left post. Though this was not a bad result for Gasperini’s team, their hopes of reaching the Europa League quarter-finals for the first time are still up in the air.

The number of chances created by Leverkusen in Bergamo should serve as a warning sign for Atalanta to keep things tight at the back in Germany.