Lazio fought back repeatedly to snatch a 3-3 thriller with Atalanta in Bergamo, as Josip Ilicic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic completed braces.
These two sides were the surprises of last season and continued their giant-killing ways by topping the Europa League groups. This was therefore a head-to-head for continental qualification, but Ciro Immobile was suspended following the controversial 3-1 home defeat to Torino. With Luis Nani injured, Felipe Caicedo stepped in. Maarten De Roon sat out a ban for the hosts.
Lazio had won their last three meetings with Atalanta, home and away, and last season this fixture was a spectacular 4-3 success for the visitors.
A glancing Bastos header was off target from Luis Alberto’s corner, while Andrea Petagna wasn’t alert enough to make the most of a Bryan Cristante slide-rule pass.
Atalanta’s pressure was growing and they broke through when Petagna crossed for Mattia Caldara’s precise header into the far bottom corner from eight yards.
Lazio were rocking and moments later the hosts doubled their lead with a sensational strike. Papu chipped up a pass, Josip Ilicic watched it drop over his shoulder and hit a fantastic volley.
It was almost 3-0, but Thomas Strakosha performed a desperate reaction save on Cristante from another Gomez assist at the by-line.
Instead, the Biancocelesti got back into it with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from the edge of the penalty area, his snooker shot bouncing in off the inside of the near post.
The Serbian completed the comeback too, swinging the boot first time from the D and wrong-footed Berisha again at the near post.
Papu couldn’t quite get on the end of a Remo Freuler cross to the back post, as it was end-to-end stuff in Bergamo.
Straight after the restart, Gomez completed a give-and-go with Petagna and was brought down by a clumsy Bastos tackle from behind, allowing Ilicic to convert the penalty and restore Atalanta’s lead.
Ilicic curled just wide of the far top corner with his weaker right foot, but they lost Jose Luis Palomino to injury.
Lazio thought they had equalised on 63 minutes, but Berisha performed an acrobatic save on Lucas Leiva’s strike from the edge of the area, scooping it off the line.
Strakosha had his gloves stung by Gomez at the near post and from the resulting corner, the ball ricocheted around until Caldara bundled it over the line, but the goal was disallowed for an offside position.
Moments later, Gomez pounced on a Wallace howler, but Strakosha ran off his line to get just enough on it and turn wide.
Simone Inzaghi threw on Jordan Lukaku and fit-again Felipe Anderson, which proved decisive for the equaliser. Luis Alberto started the move and finished it, combining with Caicedo and Felipe Anderson to go clear and sweep it past Berisha with the inside of the boot.
Inzaghi was sent off for dissent, as he wanted a straight red for Hans Hateboer’s late tackle on Stefan Radu, but that would’ve been very harsh. The Coach then tried to lurk near the touchline, but was spotted by the referee.
Caicedo had a counter-attack charged down in the box by Caldara, while Strakosha bravely rushed off his line to take the ball off Remo Freuler’s foot and Papu Gomez blasted wide from distance. Ultimately, neither side deserved to lose this thoroughly entertaining night of football.
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