Gian Piero Gasperini admits conceding two goals in stoppages ‘hurt more’ than PSG winning earlier, because Atalanta ‘got so close’ to the Champions League semi-finals.
The minnows from Bergamo were leading 1-0 until the 89th minute with a Mario Pasalic goal, but were visibly exhausted and down to 10 men in stoppages due to Remo Freuler’s injury.
PSG took full advantage, scoring twice in stoppages with Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for a 2-1 turnaround.
“The biggest regret is that we got so close and thought we really might achieve this extraordinary coup,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“The satisfaction remains that we had a great Champions League campaign, constantly improving against the best teams in Europe. I can only thank the lads for all they’ve done this season.
“It’s disappointing because we came so close. There are some of the best players in the world, Mbappe and Neymar, who at a certain point really sparked them into life.
“We could’ve conceded earlier, in a way that might’ve been better, as conceding in stoppages hurts more. We did all we possibly could, at the end of a very difficult and exhausting run of fixtures, so I can only thank the lads.
“The Champions League is a very special competition and I read a while back Jose Mourinho said it was the competition of details. Details make the difference when games are so balanced and can go one way or the other.
“Despite everything, we reached the 90th minute in the lead. We were certainly well-prepared on set plays, there was that Berat Djimsiti chance, and could’ve done better on a couple of counter-attacks, but again, these are all details.”
The Champions League quarter-final was played behind closed doors in Lisbon, but fans gathered in the town square in Bergamo to watch – with social distancing measures.
“The people of Bergamo will celebrate anyway, for our sense of belonging, for the team giving all they possibly could. That is what they ask of us. We have resources of passion and ideas, not necessarily of money, but those are a bottomless well and we’ll keep drawing from them in future.”
Atalanta seemed exhausted towards the end, perhaps because while they played twice a week throughout July to finish Serie A, PSG had only two competitive games since March.
“It’s not that we weren’t sharp, but PSG have players who are so reactive, they change pace so quickly and get away. Neymar, Mbappé, but also others can do that at the highest level,” continued Gasperini.
“I thought we played to our strengths, the Pasalic goal reminded me of Josip Ilicic’s finish. We weren’t as attacking perhaps as in the past, but that’s because we had to replace Ilicic with midfielders who have different characteristics, who can shoot from distance or make runs into the box.
“There was Luis Muriel, but we keep him generally to come off the bench and shake things up in the second half, as he has done so often this season.
“We are very disappointed, as we felt that we were almost in the semi-final. That would’ve been extraordinary, but it’s extraordinary anyway. We want to improve next season – probably not in results, which will be difficult, but as a team.
“We finished third in Serie A for the second year running, but there are teams who were 10-12 points behind us who won’t be in that position again. We will never start a season targeting the Scudetto, we aim to build and improve, then see how things go.
“Our objectives are always set as time goes on. In fact, the President always starts out by saying we need 40 points to secure safety in Serie A! We raised the bar, and we’re very happy to be back in the Champions League, as that is already a success.”
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