Atalanta will be happy with three away goals, but also irritated they twice threw away a lead in this 3-3 thriller with Fiorentina, the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.
These two surprise outfits met at the Stadio Franchi, as the Viola had crushed Roma 7-1 to reach this stage, while the Orobici eliminated holders Juventus 3-0. German Pezzella was only fit for the bench with Kevin Mirallas out, but Luis Muriel was chosen ahead of Giovanni Simeone. Papu Gomez returned from injury for the visitors, but Berat Djimsiti and Remo Freuler were suspended with Robin Gosens side-lined.
Curiously, these teams will face off again in Bergamo on Sunday in Serie A and the second leg is on April 24. Atalanta have not beaten Fiorentina since a 2-0 result in Bergamo on April 29, 2012. It was followed by only five draws and 10 defeats. The last victory at the Stadio Franchi was all the way back in January 1993.
Atalanta had a big early chance on 11 minutes when Josip Ilicic’s volley took a deflection, but Alban Lafont did remarkably well to readjust and beat it away with his trailing hand.
Ilicic was largely responsible for the opening goal soon after, as he gathered in midfield and surged forward on the counter, timing his pass perfectly to release Gomez and the captain rolled it past on-rushing Lafont into an empty net.
Moments later, there was another Atalanta goal and an even more spectacular Ilicic assist. This time he rolled the ball under his sole to keep it away from Vitor Hugo and placed an ideal slide-rule pass into the path of Mario Pasalic, who only had to tap in.
Ilicic was eager to make a good impression against his old club and curled just over the bar, but Fiorentina got one back when Federico Chiesa caught Jose Luis Palomino in possession in midfield, turned on the turbo and kept his composure to beat Etrit Berisha. It was a fine way to celebrate his 100th competitive appearance in a Viola jersey.
Just as Atalanta had done, Fiorentina added a second goal within four minutes. A throw-in was flicked up and over by Chiesa, Muriel knocked it down for Marco Benassi’s volley on the turn from 14 yards.
Rafael Toloi and Hans Hateboer were booked and will be suspended for the second leg, but Hateboer’s yellow card for handball was incorrect, as it hit him in the chin.
Vitor Hugo was struggling badly with Ilicic, so Stefano Pioli reshuffled his defence for the second half with Federico Ceccherini marking the Slovenian instead.
Hugo’s header skimmed the far post on a corner, but Atalanta restored their lead when Lafont only punched a corner to the edge of the box for Marten de Roon to absolutely smash it into the roof of the net.
Nikola Milenkovic needed a last-ditch tackle to stop Duvan Zapata going clear and Muriel’s strike was deflected over by Toloi, but Fiorentina eventually got their equaliser for 3-3.
Giovanni Simeone won back possession in midfield, threaded through to send Chiesa down the right and he rolled it perfectly across the face of goal for Muriel to tap in at the back post. Just days after the controversial 3-3 draw with Inter, the Viola had this scoreline again.
De Roon almost had a repeat of his goal with a ferocious strike from even further out, but this time it was deflected for a corner. Chiesa turned defenders inside out with some extraordinary skill to set up Simeone, with a last-ditch block in the six-yard box, then Muriel drilled wide.
Atalanta almost made it 4-3 at the 93rd minute, when Hans Hateboer saw his looping header bounce off the crossbar with Lafont beaten.
Fiorentina 3-3 Atalanta
Gomez 16 (A), Pasalic 18 (A), Chiesa 33 (F), Benassi 36 (F), De Roon 58 (A), Muriel 79 (F)
Fiorentina: Lafont; Milenkovic, Ceccherini (Laurini 80), Hugo, Biraghi; Dabo (Simeone 76), Benassi, Veretout; Chiesa, Gerson (Edimilson Fernandes 51); Muriel
Atalanta: Berisha; Toloi, Palomino, Mancini; Hateboer, De Roon, Pasalic, Castagne; Gomez (Barrow 86); Ilicic, Duvan Zapata (Reca 84)