Tuesday October 27 2020
CL: Atalanta comeback holds Ajax

Duvan Zapata’s two goals in six minutes completed the Atalanta comeback from 2-0 down to hold Ajax 2-2 in an entertaining Champions League encounter.

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Liverpool now top the group following their 2-0 win over Midtjylland, having beaten Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam last week.

This was an historic occasion, the first Champions League match La Dea played in Bergamo, as last season the Gewiss Stadium wasn’t up to code, so they used San Siro instead. Unfortunately, it came days after new lockdown measures due to COVID, so it was played behind closed doors.

Although they won 4-0 away to Midtjylland, they lost both Serie A games around that, and had to do without injured Marten de Roon, Mattia Caldara and Cristiano Piccini. Ajax relied on Lassina Traore, who scored four goals when they beat Venlo 13-0 at the weekend, though Mohammed Kudus and Jan-Klaas Huntelaar were out.

Traore was booked six minutes in for going studs-up on Marco Sportiello as the goalkeeper was trying to clear an awkwardly-bouncing ball.

Josip Ilicic completed a give-and-go with Berat Djimsiti only to then balloon the finish over from 12 yards in a big scoring opportunity. Duvan Zapata also fired wide after running on to an Ilicic through ball.

Sportiello smothered an Antony daisy-cutter, but Robin Gosens attempted an audacious, acrobatic and ultimately ill-advised clearance on Lassina Traore as the Ajax man tried to chest down a Nicolas Tagliafico ball over the top. It was dangerous and the referee awarded a penalty, which Dusan Tadic converted with a dinked finish.

Mario Pasalic’s first touch let him down on the counter, but Atalanta were made to pay for an error when Sportiello fumbled the low Neres cross from the left and Traore was ready to bundle the rebound over from a couple of yards.

After the restart, Onana did well to beat away an Ilicic free kick and Pasalic was tackled as he dribbled into the area, while Sportiello stuck out a leg to deny Perr Schuurs one-on-one.

Atalanta finally got back into the game when Papu Gomez floated a perfect ball to the back post for Duvan Zapata’s header into the ground.

Noussair Mazraoui was substituted after risking a second yellow card, but Duvan Zapata completed his brace and the comeback in six minutes. He ran on to a Mario Pasalic ball down the right and smashed an unstoppable right-foot rocket into the roof of the net. It was his fifth Champions League goal in 10 games.

Penalty appeals for a Tagliafico handling offence were waved away by VAR, as his arm was flush to his body, even if the hand was slightly raised.

Gomez and Pasalic had shots charged down in quick succession, while Sportiello was at full stretch to palm an Antony effort round the post and another of his strikes over the bar.

It remained wide open, as Danny Blind made a decisive run to cut off Luis Muriel and Onana smothered the Ruslan Malinovskyi rocket. Malinovskyi should’ve done far better when blasting over the bar from the edge of the box on a Duvan Zapata assist.

Atalanta 2-2 Ajax

Tadic pen 30 (Aj), Traore 38 (Aj), Duvan Zapata 54, 60 (At)

Atalanta: Sportiello; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, Pasalic, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez (Malinovskyi 78); Ilicic (Muriel 78), Duvan Zapata

Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui (Klaiber 56), Schuurs, Blind, Tagliafico; Klaassen, Tadic, Gravenberch; Antony (Labyad 93), L Traore, Neres (Promes 68)

Ref: Skomina (SVN)