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With two Europa League preliminary rounds already on their back, Atalanta are by far the fittest Serie A club at the moment. Their opening match tonight followed the same pattern seen in Europe, with the Bergamaschi delivering a hailstorm of goals to unfortunate newly-promoted Frosinone. Captain Alejandro Papu Gomez set his side to a good start scoring two goals and serving two assists to wrap a convincing 4-0 win.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s squad couldn’t hope for a better way to break their curse of the opening match – which Atalanta had failed to win since 2008. With 20 goals scored in their first five official games, the Nerazzurri can now look forward to next Thursday’s decisive playoff match against FC Copenhagen to secure a spot in the Europa League Group Stage.
With Atalanta already up to speed, and Frosinone being a work-in-progress, it was difficult to foresee a different outcome that what seen at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia Stadium (“Blue Athletes of Italy” – now, doesn’t this make for a great stadium name?) On one side, Gian Piero Gasperini’s long-tested lineup, featuring nine players from the past season – the only additions being Albanian center back Berat Djimsiti and Croatian midfielder Mario Pasalic. On the other side, a completely revolutionized squad, with seven new players collecting their first cap for the visitors tonight. Coach Moreno Longo claimed that it will take a few weeks to see the real Frosinone.
Fair enough, but the young trainer will have to work hard and fast to make a team out of his shapeless collection of new joiners, or the Ciociari will soon end up replicating the part played by Pescara and Benevento in the last two seasons. The only positive note in Frosinone’s punching-ball night was Camillo Ciano’s Serie A debut at 28.
The Campanian striker, a seasoned Serie B cannoniere, had scored more than 10 goals in each of his last four seasons, despite being continuously ignored by any top-flight side. After contributing to the Ciociari’s promotion with 16 goals, he finally joined the elite division hands in hands with them, and tonight introduced himself to the Serie A stage by hitting a post in the 10th minute with a beautiful right foot shot, when the score was still even…
For Atalanta’s coach, the only doubt was about deciding which goalkeeper to line up, with Pierluigi Gollini ultimately prevailing over Erit Berisha. Too bad that the game didn’t give him much work to do, so if Gasperini was hoping to get some indications, he will probably have to wait for the next game. Indeed, as soon as Gollini’s post stopped to rattle at Ciano’s conclusion, the Bergamaschi took full control of the match and didn’t release it anymore.
To make La Dea’s home debut in front of their supporters so sweet was – surprise, surprise – Alejandro Gomez, Atalanta’s captain and irreplaceable leader, an influencer both in and out of the pitch. Just a few days ago, the Argentinian striker had been very critic about the Serie A League board decision to adopt a unique format for all clubs’ captain bands. Gomez, on the other hand, has always been famous for wearing personalized and creative bands, and he was very vocal in his opposition to the League’s decision.
Now, what do you do in Italy when you don’t like a rule? That’s simple: You break it. And so, El Papu Gomez was seen once again wearing one of his very personal bands tonight, commemorating Atalanta’s birthday. His explanation was that the official band was too large for his arm…
But to come back to what he did on the pitch, Gomez pushed the home side ahead in the 13th minute, putting the ball past Marco Sportiello after Rafàel Toloi had served him an exquisite assist. El Papu eventually turned into assistman himself, delivering two golden chances from the left side to Hans Hateboer and Mario Pasalic, who both converted to bring Atalanta to 3-0.
The captain made it four during extra time, shooting at the end of a powerful progression and finding an unlucky deflection from the defense, thus forcing Atalanta’s former goalkeeper Sportiello (welcomed with hoots and whistle by his ex-supporters) to capitulate again. As of now, he already is the Serie A top scorer – and that’s only the first piece of good news for Gasperini, who could also benefit of a Rafàel Toloi whose first 30 minutes of play were simply devastating.
Croatian midfielder Pasalic, six goals scored two seasons ago while playing with Milan, showed that he can make the difference in Bergamo, whereas 19-year-old Gambian forward Musa Barrow – a late discovery from the past season – performed a few magic tricks, but often failed to come to the point when necessary. FC Copenhagen, a fairly frequent Champions League participant club, will not allow him that luxury.
But if Alejandro Gomez’s shape is the one seen tonight, he could basically carry Atalanta to the Europa League Group Stage by himself…
August 20, 2018 – Serie A 2018-19 Round 1
SCORERS: 14′ Gomez, 48′ Hateboer, 61′ Pasalic, 93′ Gomez
|ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Masiello; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens (75′ Castagne); Pasalic (81′ Pessina); Barrow (55′ D. Zapata), Gomez (Berisha, Rossi, Mancini, Adnan, Reca, Valzania, Cornelius) Coach: Gasperini|
|FROSINONE (3-5-2): Sportiello; Goldaniga, Salamon, Krajnc; Zampano, Maiello (62′ Soddimo), Hallfredsson, Chibsah, Molinaro; Ciano (81′ Pinamonti), Perica (81′ Matarese) (Bardi, Brighenti, Ghiglione, Ariaudo, Capuano, Beghetto, Besea, Crisetig, Cassata) Coach: Longo|
REFEREE: Mr. Piccinini from Forlì
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Perica, Goldaniga (F)