The historic run of Italian Serie A club Atalanta in the 2019-2020 UEFA Champions League campaign has finally ended in a rather heartbreaking manner as they enjoyed 1-0 lead until the 88th minute before their opponent, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) spoilt the party for them.
This season UEFA Champions League campaign is the first appearance of the 112 years old Italian Serie A club but they stunned the followers of football by not just escaping from the group stage despite suffering three losses. When the team made it to the round of 16 and were made to face Spanish La Liga side Valencia, their critics thought that would be the end of the road for Atalanta. To the astonishment of their doubters, they scale through to the quarter-final by beating Valencia 8-4 on aggregate.
In the quarter-final match which is not like the regular two-legged format but a one-legged encounter where there is no second chance to make up for any mistake, Atalanta started the show like they needed the match the most. Atalanta’s hunger to scale through the round was enough to give them an early lead. Mario Pasalic scored in the 26th minute for the Italian club to leave the French Ligue 1 club to chase the game throughout the first 45 minutes.
The talisman of PSG, Neymar tried to change the course of the game for his team but the best the Brazilian forward could do in the first half was to lose two beautiful chances. At the end of the long minutes of intense football, Atalanta went into the locker room with their one-goal lead.
Atalanta vs PSG: the deciding moments
The second half kicked off almost like the first half but this time around, PSG showed more determination to equalize and probably steal the lead from a compact Atalanta team. That didn’t happen until at the tail end of the regular time where the Italian club had thought they were about to make history for themselves.
Just like what the manager of Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini said after the match, the introduction of Kylian Mbappe in the last 30 minutes of the game changed everything for the French club as they became more purposeful. But the combination of Neymar and Mbappe who just recovered from an injury could not put PSG on the driver’s seat until at the end of the regular time.
Neymar came to the party towards the 90th-minute mark to lay a beautiful pass to Marquinhos who put it in the back of the net at exactly the 90th minute. The equalizer at such a delicate time destabilized the Atalanta squad and could not respond adequately before the heartbreaking winning goal came in the additional minute when Mbappe assisted Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to steal the win from Atalanta in the 90+3 minute. The thrilling encounter ended 2-1 in favor of PSG.
This is the first time PSG made it to the semi-final round of the UEFA Champions League in 25 years. The last time they achieved this feat was during the 1994-1995 season. The win also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the French club.
Atalanta vs PSG: Here are the highlights
What the managers say after the match
The manager of PSG Thomas Tuchel said after the match that he thought PSG was about to be eliminated but was sure that once his team scored, the victory would be theirs.
“I thought about elimination, after 88 minutes at 1-0, I am realistic. But I didn’t have the feeling that we weren’t going to score”, he said.
“I told my assistants that if we scored a goal we would win. After this match, these efforts are absolutely deserved.”
The manager of Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini recounted how close it was for them to “pull off a great achievement” and praised Mbappe’s impact on the game.
“Mbappe coming into the game, combined with the presence of Neymar, changed things for PSG. He gave energy to PSG, who were losing the match – it was fundamental because of what he brought to the game”, he added.