Gian Piero Gasperini explains why he left Josip Ilicic on after a hat-trick and believes Atalanta “have got the hang of the Champions League, but can do a lot better” after knocking Valencia out to reach the quarter-finals.
They won the first leg 4-1 at San Siro, the second 4-3 at an empty Mestalla, played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
At the final whistle, the squad held up a shirt to the camera with the message: ‘Bergamo, this is for you. Never give up!’
“The penalty after three minutes was an extra boost of confidence. We struggled a little in the first half, did much better in the second,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s never easy, we conceded some avoidable goals, but we wanted to win here and absolutely not come out of here with a draw or defeat. We wanted to confirm the good work we’d done with a victory here too.”
Ilicic was undoubtedly the Man of the Match, as he became the first ever player to score four away goals in a Champions League knockout tie.
“Ilicic wanted to come off, I said give me a minute and I’ll let you out. He does struggle to recover after a strong run, but after a couple of minutes, he’s stronger than ever.
“I think there are very few players who have scored four in a single Champions League game!”
La Dea have now scored 87 goals in 38 competitive games this season and made their way through to the quarter-finals in their first ever Champions League campaign.
“It is something pretty extraordinary that we score so many goals, often four or more. After a difficult start to this competition, we got the hang of it, won four Champions League games in a row and saw tonight that we can do a lot better.
“We know so many people were watching us from Bergamo and received many messages, including the director of the hospital, so we are glad that we gave them a moment of joy.”