Land-slide victory for Atalanta signals likely dead-end for Liverpool on road to Europa Final in Dublin


Photo: Stephen Gormley (Red Eye Photo Agency)

Atalanta surprised almost everyone with an emphatic 3-0 away win at Anfield in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter final tie.

The nature of the victory for the Italians was even more surprising given Liverpool’s impressive 14-month unbeaten home record in all competitions before this match.

There were signs early on of a potential shock when, with just two minutes on the clock, Liverpool defender Van Dijk’s clearance richoted off an Atalanta player straight to Pasalic, who was only six yards out with only the keeper to beat. However he fired his shot straight at the face of Kelleher, who had dived towards the point-black shot, and the ball went wide for a corner.

Liverpool came agonisingly close to going ahead in the 30th minute when Harvey Elliott came in off the right and hit a curling shot from outside the box, which struck both the crossbar and post and somehow stayed out.

Atalanta seemed to gain a lot of confidence from that escape and Gianluca Scamacca gave Atalanta a shock lead in the 38th minute. A ball came across the box from the right and the former West Ham United striker hit a low and seemingly tame effort that somehow went underneath the diving Kelleher into the net.

At the start of the second half Mo Salah had a strike at goal saved by the inspired Musso in the Atalanta net. However Scamacca doubled the visitors’ lead in the 65th minute with a fine side-footed half-volley from 14 yards out after he was left completely unmarked in the box.

Liverpool kept battling to get back into the game. Robertson set up a great chance by driving down the left with pace and firing in a low ball across the box for Salah to finish at the back post to make it 2-1 for a moment but the goal was ruled out for a very tight offside.

In the 83rd minute it was 3-0. Kelleher saved from close range but the rebound deflected straight to Pasalic who lashed it into the back of the Liverpool net to add more misery for The Reds.

It will take a Houdini effort in Bergamo in the second leg for Liverpool to turn this tie around. However they could perhaps take some comfort when looking back at their last meetings with Atalanta in Europe in 2020 in the Champions League and remembering that they lost 2-0 at Anfield but won very comfortably in Italy 5-0.

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