Duvan Zapata's late goal and assist fired Atalanta to a 2-0 victory over Cagliari and set up a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Juventus.
Chelsea and Napoli target Nicolo Barella started for a Cagliari side who couldn’t call on Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Cerri and long-term casualty Lucas Castro, while captain Daniele Dessena had joined Brescia and Fabio Pisacane was surprisingly omitted.
Atalanta, meanwhile, were without Etrit Berisha, Marten de Roon, Robin Gosens and Marco Varnier, but they nonetheless took to the field with in-form three Alejandro Gomez, Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata
The winners in Sardinia would face Juve in the quarter-finals, and both sides showed remarkable desire to be drawn the cup holders.
Leonardo Pavoletti was a yard offside when he struck an early finish past Pierluigi Gollini, before Ilicic’s angled drive agonisingly flew the wrong side of Alessio Cragno’s far post.
The Slovene was then blocked on the line from a corner and Hans Hateboer had a cross-shot clip Cragno’s bar, yet Cagliari had chances of their own as Atalanta were forced to head Luca Ceppitelli’s towering effort away, with Gollini nowhere near it.
The goalkeeper proceed to parry away Simone Padoin’s piledriver, but he had to rely on a defensive teammate heading the ex-Juventus man’s chip on the rebound off the line.
Cragno kept the hosts hanging on with a double save on Zapata and then another to deny the Colombian from point-blank range, while Ilicic went on to hit the post and skew a strike from a decent position.
Still, fortune was to favour the brave as Zapata headed in with just a couple of minutes left on the clock, before the striker showed great strength to hold the ball up in Cagliari’s box and tee up Mario Pasalic for a tap-in.
Cagliari 0-2 Atalanta
Zapata 88, Pasalic 90
Cagliari: Cragno; Srna, Ceppitelli, Romagna, Padoin; Farago, Cigarini (Bradaric 76), Ionita (Birsa 76); Barella, Joao Pedro, Pavoletti (Farias 67)
Atalanta: Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Palomino; Hateboer, Freuler, Pessina, Castagne; Papu (Pasalic 90), Ilicic; Zapata