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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Liverpool 0-3 Atalanta: Reds facing Europa League exit after stunning collapse

Atalanta stunned Liverpool with an incredible 3-0 win in the first leg of the teams’ Europa League quarter-final tie at Anfield on Thursday, leaving the Reds’ hopes of European glory hanging by a thread.

Former West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca dispatched right-wing crosses from Davide Zappacosta and Charles De Ketelaere either side of half-time, the first with the help of some weak goalkeeping from Caoimhin Kelleher, to put La Dea in dreamland.

With Liverpool throwing men forward in a bid to cut the deficit, Mario Pasalic capped a devastating Atalanta break by tapping home with seven minutes remaining to leave the hosts shell-shocked.

After one of the most chastening Anfield outings of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool reign, the German now needs a miraculous turnaround in Bergamo to have any chance of capping his final season in charge with a European trophy.

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Atalanta smothered Liverpool with their well-organised press and were far more of a threat from the off. Their first chance came within three minutes, but Pasalic saw his shot from six yards out hit Kelleher in the face.

Harvey Elliott went close to a spectacular opener when his curling effort bounced off both the crossbar and the post before dropping to safety, and La Dea made that reprieve count after 38 minutes.

A flowing Atalanta move ended with Zappacosta crossing low for Scamacca, and Kelleher allowed the striker’s weak finish to squirm into the net.

Kelleher went some way to atoning for that error on the stroke of half-time, though, standing tall to smother Teun Koopmeiners’s chip with Liverpool’s defence nowhere to be seen.

Klopp introduced Dominik Szoboszlai, Andrew Robertson and Mohamed Salah at the break in a bid to wake Liverpool from their slumber, and the latter went close within 10 minutes of the restart as his snap-shot forced Juan Musso into action.

Darwin Nunez then shot over before Atalanta doubled their lead on the hour mark, Scamacca prodding De Ketelaere’s cross into the bottom-left corner after being left totally unmarked in the centre.

Koopmeiners should have made it 3-0 moments later but could only drag his shot wide, before Salah saw a tap-in correctly chalked off for offside at the other end.

With Liverpool desperately seeking a way back into the tie, Atalanta punished them further, Pasalic reacting quickest when Kelleher denied Ederson to tap home and leave La Dea with one foot in the semi-finals.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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