Wednesday August 12 2020
No dishonour in Atalanta defeat

The Champions League quarter-final proved a step too far for Atalanta, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi, as the sheer wealth of PSG talent eventually made the difference.

Just to be writing this is an achievement in itself. Atalanta - the boys from Bergamo - came within a few minutes of the Champions League semi-final. Anybody who ever watched Italian football would rarely have thought they would be able to say those words.

In the end, though, the financial Goliath saw off David in a late twist that will have hurt the heart of most sporting romantics. Nobody could deny PSG have assembled a fine array of talents, but it has only been achieved with the kind of riches that would have made even Croesus blush. This is a reality of the game, of course, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

The odds were stacked against the Serie A side from the outset and the loss of Josip Ilicic - who we all wish a speedy return - combined with a clearly less than fully fit Papu Gomez handicapped them further. Yet they set out to climb this particular mountain with the attitude and determination which has characterised their memorable season. That they ultimately slithered back to earth was only a minor demerit.

In truth, they never quite scaled the heights that they have in many previous matches this campaign. Perhaps the absences and the sense of occasion told on them a little, but they still had the quality to score a wonderful opener that fuelled dreams of qualification. With Neymar dancing through the defence but firing shots wildly off target, maybe it was their destiny to progress. There were moments when it truly seemed like Marco Sportiello’s goal was being defended by some kind of higher power working alongside him.

It wasn’t quite enough and those who view football as only a matter of winning and losing will class that as failure. Some of us, however, with a broader view of the history of the game and the efforts of this provincial club to stand toe-to-toe with the nouveau riche will take leave to see things a little differently. There was no disgrace or dishonour in pushing the Parisians to dip right into the depths of their bank balance.

That’s a little churlish, in truth, because the Ligue 1 side did demonstrate flashes of football that Atalanta had no hope of competing with. The French outfit were constant aggressors late in the game and only some increasingly inept finishing kept Gian Piero Gasperini’s hopes alive. Every player that came off the bench for his opponents felt like Harry Enfield’s old character Loadsamoney waving a huge wad of cash in his face. Eventually the sheer scale of their match-winning talent was bound to tell - especially with Remo Freuler limping around in a fashion not dissimilar to Thomas Tuchel on the PSG bench.

To the victor, the spoils, but to the vanquished a huge slice of credit. The Bergamaschi have been a great team to watch this season and have delighted us with their free goal-scoring and never-say-die approach. That they got further than any other Italian side in Europe’s elite competition tells its own story. They are allowed a night to feel sorry for themselves, but after that, they should be proud of what they have achieved.

The future, of course, is for we scribes to speculate over. There is always the fear at smaller sides that someone will come along and snap up all their best talent and force them to build again. Atalanta have shown themselves adept at doing so but, nonetheless, it would be a shame to see this special group scattered to the four winds. You feel they have much more to give.

That will be up to the powers that be at the club. There is a core of a side there which - while the Champions League was always a stretch - could be seriously capable of mounting an even stronger challenge for Serie A in the years to come. This cycle will inevitably come to an end, but before it does, they could do things few would ever have thought possible.

They dazzled and they were determined, they were flamboyant and they fought hard, they were glorious and they were gutsy - all of which made them a joy to watch. That might not mean much to those who accept only victory but to some spectators it is worth quite a lot. It was thrilling while it lasted and it threatened to upset the established order and that is surely something for which we should all be grateful.

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

Have your say...
LOL at Napoli players ON VACATION watching Barca getting trashed by Bayern! Also, congrats to Garcia & Lyon for yesterday.
on the 16th August, 2020 at 12:12am
Atalanta played beautifully, but they lost. everything before but is bull. Also a nice dark humour by Giancarlo
on the 15th August, 2020 at 3:24pm
Unfortunately, that final score seemed written in the sky from the second I saw Neymar's miss after he had out-ran the entire defence, early in the game. Caldara felt shaky from the start. However, I can't give Marten and Remo all the praise they deserve. They fought like animals, physically. Considering that they both played the full 90 minutes, Gasperini has to take some blame here.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 9:25pm
But if I have to choose/ favour ONLY one side, I prefer "Zeman" over "Conte".
I rather lose 7-1 trying than lose 1-0 defending.
That's why I'll miss Liverani's Lecce next year --They drew Inter/ Juve/ Milan & won against Lazio/ Napoli!

Football is A GAME. PLAY IT. Go for it. It's way more fun & unpredictable!

In the end,
There is only ONE "Life-&-Death" battle. The REAL, literal one.
(When you have cancer, it doesn't matter if Roma/ Juve won or what's the final score between Mavs & Nicks...)
on the 14th August, 2020 at 4:38pm
Sport has two sides:

Achievements, records, humans driven to their physical (& therefore psychological) edge; a serious, Black-&-White, Life-&-Death battle, where only winning & results matter, with no room for risks...

But it's also fun, Colorful entertainment!
A REAL game, where everyone involved are winners; A healthy competition where experimentation & risk taking are a must!

There needs to be a BALANCE.
You need structure/ form next to creativity otherwise Liverpool-Roma (5-0) happens.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 3:56pm
Just think about it:
Dea this year. Ajax last year. EDF's Roma 3 years ago. Dortmund in 2013. Monaco in 2004. Iceland in recent Euro, WC & qualifiers..!

None of these underdogs won the prize.., but from outset they "shouldn't have been" anywhere near the semi finals, finals they reached!
They went for it. A mouse jumping on cat. & won our HEARTS.

The best thing is they all left with heads held high, earning new fans!

When giants (United, Barca, 'Pool) emulated it, they blew the competition.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 3:12pm
"you ppl"?
--You are being racist... against racist ppl! ;)

I saw it as Vero: Atalanta never deviated from their gameplan; in second half they just ran out of steam.
Because of stopped French championship, PSG was match rusty (Neymar, LOL) but physically better prepared/ rested.

In CL/ EL you have to play corageously!
IF Conte plays like he did against Leverkusen or Barca (first half) they can win EL!
His downfall in Europe is always going for a pragmatic 1-0 win, never taking risk.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 2:32pm
italian teams should stop this small team mentality. people 50 years from now won't watch beautiful games in UCL. They will watch the finals.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 4:32am
Heartbroken and angry. I think Gasperini is sometimes intransigent. In the same way Sarri is. Sometimes a change in tactics or approach is necessary. "Fexibility". PSG's tying goal was unfortunate, but how could it be 4 PSG players vs. 2 Atalanta players in the box as the cross came in for Neymar in the second goal? 1-0 at 85' and they should have been parking the bus. Period. Yet they were still trying to press and leaving spaces behind. Crazy.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 8:59pm
@I MISS MARCO BRANCA AT INTER... I'm glad you understand something for once, wrong or false is not important right now. The fact that you UNDERSTAND something is a hugr improvement for you, Keep up the good work!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 7:59pm
After this game I understand why Inter went with a checkered design on their new jerseys.......when Europe thinks of the striped back and blue team from Italy they think Atalanta ! Way to go, 3 of the 4 teams made it past the group stage and only Atalanta, the Pot D team make it to the quarters. Only 3 teams in Italy in the last 7 years made it to the quarters, Juve, Roma and Atalanta - where are those milan teams ??
on the 13th August, 2020 at 4:51pm
Juve may have gone out with a whimper but still had chances to finish off Lyon. Least now Atalanta have pushed their biggest, richest club all the way. PSG did come back well + it's painful now but Atalanta can learn from this. Loved that Palomino block on Mbappe. Atalanta + serie a has improved quality + entertainment wise. It's not just pens that have made it a high scoring season + clubs like Atalanta are a big reason for that! Now with Gewiss they could even push on from here. Great effort.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 4:17pm
PSG were rusty. That's the only dissapointment Atalanta can have, cause it felt like PSG had got out of jail. Down to bad luck for Atalanta + their tiredness/concentration when it mattered most! PSG started with 3 defensive mids + celebrated like they'd already won the CL. That was down to fear + relief in the end.
Atalanta were great. It takes a lot of mental strength as well just to put in a performance like that in Europe. Even the 'big' clubs usually need a season to get to grips with CL.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 3:54pm
My heart broke with them, the feeling afterwas like my beloved team lost. But EXCELLENT job Atalanta! No matter which Italian club we support, we were with you. I believe all Italian club fans were united to cheer them yesterday, loved to see that more! I really hope PSG butt be kicked out of CL to see both Neymar and Tuchel sorry face. Neymar's remarks after the game was pure arrogance, I can't stand him for a second. Tuchel got that stupid attitude too!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 3:47pm
La Dea can be proud! She just ran out of steam in the end. But she was still a great advert for serie a. They may not have been able to match PSG's individual skill but as a team, they went toe-to-toe + certainly weren't inferior. OK, so they weren't as fluid as usual but at times their teamwork + quick passing made PSG look ordinary! All these should of's? Well, Atalanta could've been 2-0 up before Mbappe even came on + Neymar's finishing was far more paralytic than Atalanta's defending.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 3:27pm
The likes of Herrera, Sarabia, Gueye, Paredes, Draxler, Koehler and chuppo mooting would not get into Atalanta’s team. Gasperini has done this a number of times before where in big games, he abandons his principles and becomes defensive. They deserve praise for getting to where they did but PSG were there for the taking. Atalanta did not go out because PSG are owned by Arabs, they went out because they thought they could hold out for 50 minutes without conceding or creating anything.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 1:31pm
What is all this about Qatar wealth? Some of you just cannot help your prejudices but that is on you as really you ppl should never matter. Atalanta have played better but like some said they blew it in the end. Unlike the blogger I look at the reality and Neymar was the only PSG player in the starting 11 that was creative. This side whether the richest in the world is immaterial had Verratti, Di Maria and Mbappe not starting. Navas went off injured and Rico is like not having a keeper.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 1:20pm
Atalanta approached the game with the wrong attitude and attack style. When up 1-0 they should have continued to score goals but instead sat back and when you defend the ref starts handing out yellow cards all over the pitch. Great to see Neymar diving all over the pitch as usual and being hailed as a tremendous player. VAR should review the silliness of these players and issue yellow cards and suspensions after the game. Neymar = excessive dives, constant complaining and a poor attitude.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 1:02pm
Once again the old adage: Play to win, do not play not to lose.
Atalanta are a brave bunch but Gasperini decided to play not to lose in the second half, something that is uncharacteristic for this coach.
Whether his team was fatigued and undermanned, he knows best but I wish that they went out of the tournament much like they played all year, attacking and unafraid. The game is a full 90 minutes plus and they gave their best.

In the end the score is forgotten but the effort remembered. Bravo!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 12:55pm
An important ingredient in the recipe for success in football is the ability to win ugly. Everybody is quick to praise the attacking style of football in Bergamo and their versatility but this game really showed that they're a national side at best. There's 2-4 players in PSG's squad that you could highlight but the rest of the players really are average despite their wages so I feel like this is an opportunity missed for Italian football.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 12:49pm
I know people criticize Juve's ugly wins but I think other Italian teams need to learn when to control the tempo. That's all that Atalanta was missing.... if they could have started off the second half controlling the game and saved energy then they would have wrapped it up... in any case major congrats to them!!! they did an amazing job
on the 13th August, 2020 at 12:01pm
Real shame. I was ‘sick as a parrot’. If they hadn’t been so close. Reminds me of the 2000 Euro final - Italy vs France. So, so close and then the inevitable.
on the 13th August, 2020 at 11:46am
Tragic ending and money and wealth won that tie, certainly not managerial nous or tactical brilliance. Atalanta were exhausted at the end and the defence could barely put one foot in front of another. Ilicic was a big miss. Oh well, another year with no Italian teams in the CL semis. I'll be cheering for Inter because who else is there? Just as long as a Spanish or English team don't win a trophy I'll be happy. They've spawned enough titles over the years!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 10:55am
Tbh last night wasn’t the best atalanta side that we usually see in the league. They’re run out of gas in 55th mins. Gasp took a gamble by playing defensive in 2nd half, or perhaps he was forced to. It almost paid off though, only 5 mins away.
Neymar & Mbappe really made the difference. PSG deserved to win after all. They had more chances, more possession & should’ve scored 2 goals in 1st half. It’s heart-breaking mostly because in that game, atalanta were lucky but ultimately unlucky in the end
on the 13th August, 2020 at 9:41am

Not us, AS Roma. Especially when their fans drove a tank over a car with 'Roma Merda' written on it!

We never forget!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 9:36am
2/2 he got out each and every player who knows how to keep the ball in the middle of the pitch, which was crucial for defending against such PSG team! He decided to play a classic catanagio, and as the time went by, it was obvious that we were all waiting for a goal to be conceded in any moment! And it happened! The worst way possible!
THIS IS A DISASTER! Imagine Conte in such a situation... DId you see INter defending a few nights ago during 2-1?! No! And that's what brings result!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 9:29am
1/2 Of course there's no dishonour, but gasperini SHOULD BE ASHAMED of himself, because just as it was HIM who brought them there, it was also him who crushed them down! The moment he decided to defend the entire 2nd half, it was a suicide mission! Instead of continuing with the same gameplan Atalanta played in the 1st half, which made them so much more dangerous than PSG & gave them the lead (PSG's chances were via Atalanta's mistakes), he changed everything for 180 degrees!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 9:26am
C'est la vie.

It's heartbreaking, it's unfortunate, but that's how the pins fall. Atalanta were courageous and very determined, but a little misfortune and a lottttt of luck enabled PSG to just roll over the finish line.

Kudos, brethren, but alas, we weren't good enough.

Pirlo must take the entire book (as opposed to a leaf) and apply it to Juventus' current squad, but the egos and the squad chemistry isn't there.

Forza Italia!
on the 13th August, 2020 at 8:07am
Atalanta are the highlight of the Champions league this season. They have a delightfully refreshing attitude to the sport. They gave their absolute all in a battling performance against the unlimited financial riches of the Qatar state-funded club.
PSG, on course for elimination, only to be rescued when Atalanta's defense creaked in injury time as they were effectively reduced to 10 men.
(I'm glad the MBappe injury is nothing serious)
on the 13th August, 2020 at 7:59am
All calcio fans were vying for Atlanta progress
on the 13th August, 2020 at 7:26am

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