Josip Ilicic came off the bench to bag a hat-trick, as Atalanta emerged 6-2 winners against Sassuolo and there could’ve been even more goals.
The Neroverdi had gone off the boil lately with one point from two rounds, and while Kevin-Prince Boateng and Alfred Duncan were available again, Gian Marco Ferrari was suspended. Atalanta came so close to ending the Juventus unbeaten record on Boxing Day, but were held to a 2-2 draw by Cristiano Ronaldo. Marten De Roon was still injured, but Rafael Toloi and Jose Luis Palomino returned from suspension.
Sassuolo had not beaten Atalanta in eight Serie A meetings, drawing four and losing four.
Duvan Zapata continued his remarkable scoring streak with the opener at the Mapei Stadium, rising despite a Marlon hold to get his glancing header to the Papu Gomez set play.
Marlon fell awkwardly soon after and had to make way for Federico Peluso, but Sassuolo came close to an equaliser with Alessandro Matri’s chest and volley just wide from 10 yards.
Instead, Atalanta doubled their advantage with Papu Gomez, who cut inside and unleashed a shot from distance that took a deflection to wrong-foot Andrea Consigli.
It was nearly 3-0 moments later, Duvan Zapata stinging Consigli’s gloves on the counter, while after the restart the goalkeeper parried a Musa Barrow angled drive following the give-and-go with Gomez.
However, Sassuolo pulled one back when Magnani caught Duvan Zapata napping to spark a counter, Alfred Duncan cutting inside to finish with a left-foot daisy-cutter.
Sassuolo almost completed the comeback moments later, Rogerio testing Etrit Berisha at the near post.
It didn’t last long, as Palomino knocked down a corner for Gianluca Mancini to volley in Atalanta’s third from six yards.
The chaos continued, Duncan’s snapshot taking a massive deflection off Palomino to wrong-foot Berisha at the near post and make it 3-2.
Federico Di Francesco thought it was 3-3 moments later, but his daisy-cutter forced a desperate low save from Berisha at full stretch. Duvan Zapata’s header whistled wide and Papu Gomez’s curler from the edge of the box thumped the crossbar.
However, Ilicic came off the bench at the 63rd minute and Atalanta turned on the turbo. The Slovenian sprung the offside trap on a Toloi assist and drilled across Consigli into the far bottom corner.
Then Ilicic completed a give-and-go with Gomez to beat Consigli again, before in stoppages completing his remarkable hat-trick on the counter-attack.
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