Empoli vs Atalanta 1-4: La Dea Warm Up for Man United Clash in Exciting Fashion

At the Stadio Carlo Castellani in Tuscany, Empoli hosted Atalanta on Sunday afternoon. Josip Ilicic put the Orobici on the right track with a first half brace, but the home side pulled one back before the end of the half. Nonetheless, an early own goal in the second period restored La Dea’s lead, and Duvan Zapata’s late strike sealed a 4-1 win for the Bergamo-side.

Aurelio Andreazzoli started in a 4-3-3 formation, with Andrea Pinamonti spearheading the attack, flanked by Federico Di Francesco and Liam Henderson. The midfield trio was made up of Nicolas Haas, Szymon Żurkowski and Leo Stulac.

On the other hand, Gian Piero Gasperini went for a 3-4-1-2 lineup, with Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic starting upfront, supported by Mario Pasalic. Marten de Roon and Tens Koopmeiners played in the double pivot, while Davide Zappacoste and Joakim Maehle occupied the wingback roles.

The hosts had the first real chance of the match when Riccardo Marchizza surged forward and delivered a ball to the box that reached Henderson, but his shot by denied by a goal-line clearance from Merih Demiral.

Few minutes later, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. Ilicic pounced on a poor clearance at the back from the Empoli backline, and the Slovenian played a brilliant give-and-go with Pasalic who put him through in front of an open goal, thus giving Atalanta an early lead.

At the 26th minute, Ilicic got his personal brace and doubled La Dea’s lead. The veteran cut from the right flank, played a swift give-and-go with Muriel, before unleashing an unstoppable left-foot strike from the edge of the box that flew into the far corner, leaving Vicario with no chance at all.

At the half hour mark, Di Francesco grabbed one back for the Tuscans. Stulac found the Italian with a sublime long ball. The wibger beat José Palomino to the ball, brought it down thanks to a marvelous control with his chest, and drove a low shot past Juan Musso, much to the delight of the home crowd. 

Before the end of the first half, both club captains left the pitch injured in the space of one minute. Rafael Toloi was replaced by Remo Freuler as Gasperini opted to change his tactical to 4-3-1-2, and Simone Romagnoli soon followed suit, making way for Lorenzo Tonelli.

Following an entertaining first half, the second period started where we left off, as Atalanta restored their two-goal lead thanks to an own goal by Empoli. Pasalic received a cross on the back post and headed it towards Duvan Zapata who entered the pitch at the break. Mattia Viti tried to prevent the ball from reaching the Colombian, but he ended up putting it in his own net.

On the 66th minute, Zappacosta was tripped by Filippo Bandinelli in the box, and ref awarded a penalty kick after the intervention of VAR. Ilicic was expected to seal his hattrick, but he awkwardly blasted it high and wide before making way for Ruslan Malinovskyi.

The Ukranian almost scored his side’s fourth of the match, but his header was denied by a spectacular save from Vicario.

At a time when Empoli were pushing for their second goal of the match, it was in fact Atalanta that put the encounter to sleep in the final minutes. Zapata launched a counter attack from the right flank and found Pasalic on the opposite side. The Croatian drew the goalkeeper out of his goal before playing it towards the striker who tapped it inside the open goal.

Thus, the Oribici took home all three points on the back of an exciting encounter which served as a decent warmup for their major Champions League clash against Manchester United on Wednesday.

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