Atalanta picked up exactly where they left off, hammering Sassuolo 4-1 with a Duvan Zapata brace, despite missing Josip Ilicic, and it could’ve been far more.
La Dea were flying high in the Champions League quarter-finals before the pandemic hit Bergamo harder than any other Italian town, so resuming in the empty Gewiss Stadium was a particularly significant occasion. A video was shown during the minute’s silence representing those who have been lost, but also the fighting spirit to get back on their feet.
Josip Ilicic was a late absentee due to a slight ankle sprain, so Mario Pasalic filled in the trident attack. The Neroverdi missed Filippo Romagna, opting for Mehdi Bourabia and Gregoire Defrel in the starting XI.
It was a very aggressive Sassuolo start, twice in five minutes Pierluigi Gollini and the offside flag stopping Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo, then the goalkeeper had to rush off his line to clear from Defrel.
Duvan Zapata wasted two golden opportunities in quick succession, mistiming his header over from six yards and a heavy touch allowing Andrea Consigli to clear.
Atalanta were growing into the game and took the lead from the corner flag. Mattia Caldara knocked it down for Berat Djimsiti, who ghosted between defenders to prod home from a couple of yards relatively undisturbed.
La Dea thought it was 2-0 just three minutes later when Duvan Zapata’s chipped ball from the left took a deflection off Robin Gosens, becoming a perfect assist for Gomez to tap in. However, the goal was disallowed after a VAR review, as the ball struck Gosens on both the face and the fist.
Gomez’s cheeky mid-air back-heel flick set up Pasalic’s chance, then it came back to the captain to drill inches wide, as Atalanta were in total control.
They did double their lead eventually, Gosens leaping above his man at the back post to knock down a long Gomez pass for Duvan Zapata to bundle over the line.
Domenico Berardi wasted a promising run, but it was all Atalanta and Duvan Zapata’s header rattled the crossbar before Gosens again wreaked havoc with his pull-back for Pasalic, but rather than clear off the line, Medhi Bourabia accidentally pushed the ball into the net from a yard.
Pasalic was booked for tripping Kyriakopoulos and will therefore be suspended for the showdown with second-placed Lazio.
Sassuolo tried to fight back before the break, but Gollini twice rushed out to deny Berardi and Ccicio Caputo in one-on-one situations, while Berardi’s header hit the side-netting.
After the restart, the visitors kept trying, but Gollini was alert and equal to everything, even fingertipping Defrel’s finish over at full stretch when clear on goal, while Caputo and Berardi were unable to get the final touch on to a Defrel ball across the six-yard box.
They didn’t take their chances, but Atalanta did, going 4-0 up when Duvan Zapata got his head on the end of a Gomez free kick from seven yards.
Sassuolo had penalty appeals rejected as Jose Luis Palomino collided with Defrel, the referee viewing it again on VAR and deciding against a spot-kick, but Daniele Chiffi did sent off Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini for dissent.
It really should’ve been 5-0, but Pasalic incredibly turned a free header over from Luis Muriel’s cross, with Haraslin doing something similar for Sassuolo at the other end.
Bourabia eventually did get a consolation goal, especially after scoring the own goal earlier, as he curled a wonderful free kick into the near top corner during stoppages.
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