Atalanta have made history by reaching the Champions League Round of 16, despite losing the first three games, after a 3-0 victory away to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Newcastle United made it through in 2002-03, but that was into a second group phase rather than the knockouts.
La Dea had the opportunity to be the first team ever to qualify for the Round of 16 after losing the opening three group games. However, they needed to win in Ukraine and hope Manchester City avoided defeat away to Dinamo Zagreb.
Josip Ilicic and Simon Kjaer joined Duvan Zapata on the treatment table, with Rafael Toloi suspended, but Ruslan Malinovskyi was surprisingly left on the bench. Shakhtar had practically a full squad to choose from and would go through with a draw, again as long as Dinamo Zagreb didn’t win. They earned a 2-1 victory at San Siro thanks to a last-gasp goal on the counter.
The Italians really should’ve taken the lead after four minutes, but showed the lack of clinical edge that has proved so damaging to their European prospects. Papu Gomez intercepted a poor pass, set it up for Muriel, who then tried to hand it over to Mario Pasalic in a wider position rather than shoot, wasting a golden opportunity.
Moments later Timothy Castagne knocked down a Gomez floated ball for Muriel, who scuffed his finish wide from just inside the box.
Another poor pass was intercepted by Muriel, but the Gomez strike was charged down with difficulty by Serhiy Kryvtsov.
There was a huge scare for Atalanta on 15 minutes, as Viktor Kovalenko blasted into the roof of the net, but the goal was disallowed for Tete’s offside position in the build-up.
Pierluigi Gollini needed a sensational fingertip save to turn the Junior Moraes header over the bar from close range. Muriel did get a shot on target, but too weak to trouble Andriy Pyatov.
Atalanta started the second half confidently, Muriel’s free kick fingertipped over the bar and Berat Djimsiti’s header off target from the resulting corner.
Gomez nutmegged a defender only to then blast his cross-shot across the face of goal, but Muriel was very fortunate not to receive a second yellow card on 55 minutes for his mistimed tackle on Dodo.
Ruslan Malinovskyi was thrown on for the final half-hour, replacing defender Andrea Masiello. There were risks, as Gollini made an astonishing save on Junior Moraes and Djimsiti cleared the rebound off the line, but it was offside anyway.
Atalanta had the ball in the net on 68 minutes when Papu Gomez rolled it across the six-yard box for Timothy Castagne to bundle over the line at the second attempt. The offside flag was up, but the replay immediately showed it was incredibly tight. After a long VAR check, the goal was given and La Dea were at this stage in the Champions League Round of 16. The 500 Atalanta fans who made the trip to Donetsk went wild.
The tension got to Shakhtar Donetsk and Dodo foolishly lashed out a hand on the face of Remo Freuler right in front of the linesman. It was very harsh for a straight red card offence, but as he was already on a yellow card anyway, cannot complain too much.
Atalanta doubled their lead, as Malinovskyi’s free kick from near the corner flag went to the near post, where Pasalic stuck out a foot to toe-poke in from a couple of yards.
Gomez threatened a third, as a desperate defensive block deflected his finish over on Castagne’s assist. There was still a scare, as Ismaily’s strike took a deflection off De Roon’s back to clip the top of the crossbar.
Malinovskyi tested Pyatov from distance and Gasperini was practically in tears on the touchline as Gollini made a stoppage-time save on Alan Patrick’s shot, palming it round the base of the near post.
It still wasn’t over, as deep into stoppages, Stepanenko’s header back to his goalkeeper was intercepted by Robin Gosens to tap in from 10 yards and seal the 3-0 scoreline.
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Atalanta
Castagne 68 (A), Pasalic 80 (A), Gosens 94 (A)
Shakhtar Donetsk: Pyatov; Dodo, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Ismaily; Stepanenko, Alan Patrick; Tete (Marlos 59), Kovalenko (Solomon 70), Taison; Junior Moraes
Atalanta: Gollini; Masiello (Malinovskyi 61), Djimsiti, Palomino; Castagne, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pasalic, Gomez (Hateboer 90); Muriel (Ibanez 70)
Ref: Zwayer (GER)
Sent off: Dodo 77 (S)
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