Europa League From asphyxiation to dream, without a happy ending: the chronicle of Sporting-Atalanta

Atalanta played in the first half and didn’t let play. Amorim made a good change at half-time. Leo’s mobility scrambled Italian markings.

It is said, in football, that one team plays what the other lets play. That was the picture of the first half of the Portuguese-Italian duel in Alvalade, where an intractable, tactically disciplined and highly pressing Atalanta, did not let Sporting put foot on a green branch. At half-time, in addition to the 0-2 lead, the Bergamo team had more possession (45/55), more passes (229/321), more corners (2/6) and fewer fouls (3/4). And the Lions, in the first 45 minutes, were not able, for once, to get dangerously close to Argentine Juan Musso’s goal. If there was a title just for the opening 45 minutes, it would be “Italian pressure cooker cooked lions football.” In fact, a Sporting that was too soft, without the ability to anticipate and arguments to counteract the transalpine high pressure, suffered well and never managed to balance the operations. On the left of the Italian team, Ruggeri and Lookman discovered a highway between the backs of Fresneda and Diomande, which was not compensated by Morita, opening the way for several panicked situations for Adán’s goal. With a midfield always blocked, where Hjulmand lacked the art and imagination to let go, and which was systematically too far away from Paulinho and Pedro Gonçalves, the lions, unable to build from the back, were left to resort to direct play for Gyokeres, who was easy prey for Atalanta’s trio of center-backs. The Italians’ advantage at half-time was fair, and in the air, in the face of so much superiority, there was doubt as to the ability of Sporting to react…

Amorim ‘enters’ the field

It was then that the Sporting coach saw what his team needed to free itself from the shackles built by the experienced Gasperini: mobility up front and tranquility in defense. Thus, he brought in the boss Coates, to put order in the house, and also two agitators, Catamo and Edwards, starting Sporting to articulate in a 3x3x1x2x1, where Morita was between Fresneda and Mastheus Reis, Pote appeared between the lines in the middle, Edwards and Catamo exchanged positions, making the marking on top, almost man-for-man, of Atalanta fruitless, and Gyokeres made room for him, with the generosity that is known to him.

With this design, with this new philosophy, the fortress of Bergamo began to open gaps and Gasperini got the first scare in the 52nd minute when Gonçalo Inácio was very close to the goal. Three minutes later he was freshening up defence and attack in a vain attempt to control the Lions. The game broke down and the transalpine coach, harassed by the versatility of the Lions, rocked by Alvalade who finally began to believe, launched Pasalic and Holm to give consistency to the midfield and stop the left wing of Sporting, which in the meantime exchanged, on the right, Fresneda for Esgaio. Until the minute came for Matheus Reis’ shot, well saved by Musso and Diomande’s rebound, to Salvini’s hand, which did not go unnoticed by VAR. 76 minutes were played when Gyokeres, from eleven meters, put the result in the minimum difference. And right after, the moment of the game, which shows how so often the line that separates success from failure is so tenuous in football: Catamo, in the 78th minute, shot violently at the base of Juan Musso’s right post, ruining a golden opportunity for Sporting to get the equalizer and try to ride the moment to get the victory. Once again, Gasperini was pragmatic, realized that Salvini could no longer stand Gyokeres, and brought in Pelomini, a heavyweight who in fact controlled the Leo striker, to mark the Swede. From then on, and despite a second yellow card, forgiven to Tolói (84), things changed, the Italians started to be able to exchange the ball and even forced (Scamacca) Adán into an excellent save in the 89th minute. And not even Coates, the striker, in the final minutes, was an argument to avoid defeat…

Comments are closed.