Wednesday June 24 2020
Atalanta and Lazio didn't let us down

The great entertainers of Serie A went head-to-head and more than lived up to the billing, as Giancarlo Rinaldi relished Atalanta’s 3-2 win over Lazio.

There’s always a danger in anticipating a game too much. It was more than possible - after all - that the lengthy break might have dulled Atalanta and Lazio’s ability to entertain. In the end, though, we need not have worried.

From the first whistle to the last, Serie A’s most sparkling sides stood toe-to-toe in a no-holds-barred encounter. The visitors looked like blowing their hosts away in a blistering opening half hour or so of beautiful football. But the boys from Bergamo never know when they’re beaten and showed amazing reserves of energy and character to come back and turn the game around. It was hard not to think, when it was all over, of some smiling going on in Turin. Tra due litiganti, il terzo gode - they say in Italy - when two dispute, the third enjoys.

The neutrals will have savoured this one, though, along with Juventini. Not every match since football’s return has made us all that glad to see it. This one, however, was like an old friend welcomed with open arms. Well, you would, if that were allowed.

From a Biancocelesti standpoint it felt like a grievous, but not necessarily fatal, blow to their title aspirations. This was one of the toughest away trips in Italian football and they simply seemed to run out of steam. If they can produce over 90 minutes what they did in a breathtaking first 30, they could still have a Scudetto tilt in them. It is worth remembering that this was their first game after the lengthy standstill, they will surely gather match-sharpness in future encounters. They need to do it quickly, mind you.

But what a team they looked in those opening exchanges. Nearly every time they broke, Simone Inzaghi’s side created a chance and they did it in a range of fashions. They could go wide, they could go long or they could pass intricately through the middle. And then they had Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, a giant with the footballing grace of a ballerina. If you’ve not signed up to his fanclub yet, I don’t want to talk to you about Calcio.

Maybe the absentees, too, did harm the capital club in the long run. Taking the likes of Lucas Leiva, Luiz Felipe, Adam Marusic and Senad Lulic out of the reckoning would hurt anyone. It didn’t look like it made much of a difference early on, but it is hard not to think that a stronger all-round squad of players might have helped them to see this one out.

And what to say of La Dea? This was an emotional night in a city which has been so devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Sport seems small fry in the face of genuine tragedy, but the team did its little bit to raise spirits. After Inter’s slip-up earlier in the day, they look genuine contenders for third place in Serie A at the very least.

They were oddly disjointed in the opening exchanges but, over time, they found their stride once again. Even without the magical left foot of Josip Ilicic for most of the match, they still managed to deliver some spellbinding stuff. Go and Google Ruslan Malinovskyi’s goal right now if you haven’t seen it yet. We already said it before the break, but if you don’t watch Atalanta every week right now, you really are missing out.

They couldn’t make a serious tilt at the Champions League too, could they? The head says probably not, but the heart says what a story that would be. In the revamped closing stages might they just be the kind of surprise package that could hit its stride and peak form to win a handful of key matches? There would certainly be few dry eyes watching around the world if Papu Gomez picked up that particular piece of silverware.

Some of us have been reluctant to get drawn back into football of late after all the world has been through. Sport seems a little bit hollow without its fans and with a major global disaster still playing out in the background. But this game went some way to pull us all in again with its skill, endeavour and ebb and flow. Pump up the fake supporter noise - if that’s your kind of thing - and you can almost feel the old feelings start to course through the veins.

It’s been an odd season, for sure, but on this evidence it could still be a compelling one. Summer football, to paraphrase John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, had me a blast.

Giancarlo Rinaldi is the author of a number of books about Italian football. You can find them here.

Have your say...
If you're not watching Atalanta at every opportunity this season you're missing out. Those two Muriel goals against Udinese were amazing. Between those two strikes he hit a volley from the edge of the area which was well saved, thought about doing it again but lost possession which almost led to a breakaway equaliser and then set up his second goal with a cross field pass out to Gomez. All in an eight minute spell. And I would normally rate Muriel as Atalanta's fifth most dangerous attacker.
on the 29th June, 2020 at 5:53pm
When will Atalanta finish their new stadium?
on the 26th June, 2020 at 7:28pm
I think Juve's strength in depth is the difference-maker.
I'm hoping Inter reinforce a great deal in the next window so that Conte can rotate more without losing too much quality - that way the players will have more opportunity to recover after tiring games playing Conte's energetic style.
on the 26th June, 2020 at 1:26pm
@Anonymous: It's been rigged to ensure Juve dont lose the title.....i suppose that Juve rigged Gagliardini's empty net miss too right ? i suppose Juve rigged the Lazio - Atalanta game to have Lazio lose....serie a fans are a book of excuses !
on the 25th June, 2020 at 7:14pm
I am also not a Juve fan and am disappointed that they will win another scudetto. However, Serie A is not uniquely bad. La Liga and Bundesliga have the same annual issue that we do. Top are simply well oiled organizations that know what they are doing. Back to Italy, each season I watch and appreciate the Napolis and Atalantas and Lazios, as that is where the excitement and drama is.
I just wish Juve could win the Champions League once as a boost Italy's reputation.
on the 25th June, 2020 at 3:46pm
Atalanta and Juve huge beneficiaries of the Lockdown. They would have had a packed schedule and have to choose between prioritising Serie A, champions or Coppa. Now with these competitions no longer part of the schedule they get to focus on one at at time. Also all teams should have started at the same time. It's been rigged to ensure Juve dont lose the title.
on the 25th June, 2020 at 3:33pm

Unfortunately is already seems Juve are making smart moves with the Pjanic/Arthur swap. I have no idea what Barca are smoking but surely there was a better way of cooking the books than swapping a talented 23 year old for a declining 29 year old. Arthur is not as good at passing as Pjanic nor does he have the same vision but he is extremely press resistant and finds his way out of trouble which is exactly what you need when receiving the ball with your back to the play.
on the 25th June, 2020 at 3:30pm
FERBAN is right.

Lazio have been punching above their weight all season largely thanks to Ciro who has had a freak season and is unlikely to repeat it again. For the good of Serie A I hope Lazio use the champions league money to strengthen the squad and then next season give it a real go. Napoli and Inter are closest in terms of squad strength to Juve but they need quality reinforcements and for Juve to have a bad window
on the 25th June, 2020 at 3:28pm
Well said FERBAN... everyone made fun of Juve in their Milan game and thought Lazio was going to come out of lockdown in the same condition as before. Lazio do have a pretty easy remaining schedule barring Juve
on the 25th June, 2020 at 12:44pm
Unfortunately Juventus will probably now win the Scudetto. Nothing against Juventus - it would just be good to have a different outcome.
on the 25th June, 2020 at 6:43am
I predicted 3 - 3 before the game, so the scoreline wasn't much of a surprise given Atalanta's fine attack and awful defence mixed with Lazio being an average team punching above their weight

The real worry is that Juve are now clear at the top having played so badly this season

Is this really the best Serie A has to offer? And if so, what hope is there in Europe?

Lazio and Inter's fans may blame Juve "paying" refs like they usually do, but they should be looking at their own inadequacies
on the 25th June, 2020 at 12:28am

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