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Ilicic scores four as Atalanta reaches C' League QFs


Ilicic scores four as Atalanta reaches C' League QFs

Newcomer Atalanta extended its remarkable Champions League run thanks to a record-breaking night by Josip Ilicic. Ilicic became the first player to score four goals in an away knockout match in the tournament, helping Atalanta reach the quarterfinals in its debut season with a 4-3 win over Valencia on Tuesday (Mar 10). The match was played in an empty stadium because of the coronavirus outbreak. With Atalanta holding a comfortable 4-1 lead from the first leg in Italy, Ilicic scored twice in each half at the deserted Mestalla Stadium as the visitors advanced 8-4 on aggregate.

Josip Ilicic scored four goals against Valencia as Atalanta eased into the Champions League quarter-finals in the competition's first match to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Italians arrived in Spain with a commanding 4-1 lead from the first leg of their last-16 tie and quickly added to their advantage inside an eerie Mestalla Stadium.

With the chants of a large gathering of home supporters outside the ground clearly audible, Slovenia forward Ilicic converted a third-minute penalty for the Serie A side after he had been fouled by Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby.

And while Kevin Gameiro capitalised on a defensive mix-up to tap in an equaliser for the hosts, Diakhaby's handball allowed Ilicic to score his second spot-kick of the evening to put the visitors 6-2 up on aggregate.

A second Gameiro goal, this time from a close-range header, levelled the score on the night before Ferran Torres' lobbed effort put the La Liga side in front.

However, Ilicic's rasping left-foot drive from 20 yards restored Atalanta's three-goal aggregate lead as he became the first Slovenian player to score a Champions League hat-trick.

Ilicic's fourth, a left-foot effort into the top left corner, rounded off an 8-4 aggregate win on a fine evening for Gian Piero Gasperini's side, who have now scored 28 goals in their last seven games and become the competition's first debutants to reach the last eight since Leicester City in 2016-17.

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