Valencia 3-4 Atalanta: Iličić stars as debutants advance

The UEFA Champions League debutants produced another formidable attacking display to confirm their quarter-final place.

Highlights: Valencia 3-4 Atalanta
Highlights: Valencia 3-4 Atalanta

Josip Iličić scored twice in either half as Atalanta beat Valencia 4-3 to reach the quarter-finals 8-4 on aggregate.

VALENCIA VS ATALANTA: AS IT HAPPENED

The match at a glance

The competition newcomers gave another performance of thrilling attacking verve to amply demonstrate the threat they will pose in the quarter-finals.

Josip Iličić, who struck four goals on the night, wasted little time in building on their commanding 4-1 first-leg lead, thumping a third-minute penalty beyond Jasper Cillessen. He repeated the trick with an equally confident spot kick a minute before half-time, despite Kevin Gameiro having capitalised on uncertain defending to reply for the hosts after 21 minutes.

Potent playmaker Iličić, who had put his team 2-0 up in the first half of the first leg between these entertaining sides, traded goals with Gameiro again after the break. Gameiro's powerful header and a delicate lob by Ferrán Torres – who had hit the post in Italy – offered Valencia a glimmer of hope at 8-6 on aggregate.

Those faint chances were emphatically extinguished when Iličić sealed his hat-trick by seizing on a pass by substitute Duván Zapata and lashing a fierce drive into the net, before rifling in a fourth from close range with eight minutes left, Zapata again involved in the build-up.

Man of the match: Josip Iličić (Atalanta)

Ginés Meléndez, UEFA technical observer: "He contributed very actively and well in the action leading to the first penalty and scored an extraordinary third goal. He was continuously dangerous during the first half and from free-kicks."

UEFA is giving out an official Man of the Match award after every UEFA Champions League knockout stage game to recognise the top performers in Europe's top club competition.

Home view: Joseph Walker, Valencia reporter

The end of the road for Valencia. Unfortunately their defensive absences meant Atalanta's all-out attacking style left them exposed and they just couldn't cope with what was a superior outfit in all facets of the game. They looked better in a 3-5-2 after half-time, and Albert Celades may wonder what might have been had he started the first leg with that system, but for now it's all buts and maybes. They were beaten by the better side over two legs and can have no complaints. Complimenti, Atalanta.

Visitors' view: Vieri Capretta, Atalanta reporter

Yet again the perfect night for Atalanta. Another four goals scored, all by Man of the Match Iličić, sealed the deal and their progress to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League in their debut campaign. Some of the most spectacular football in Europe was once again witnessed. They just cannot slow down in this wonder season, and no one will want to face them in the next round.

Highlights: Atalanta 4-1 Valencia
Highlights: Atalanta 4-1 Valencia

Reaction 

Josip Iličić, Man of the Match: "Atalanta aren't a surprise any longer. We're doing great things and want to carry on. We want to show we deserve to be here and improve day by day. I improve with age [now 32] – I am having fun and want to carry on improving."

Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta coach: "It's never normal to score so many goals – often four – it truly is special, both in the domestic league and in the UEFA Champions League. We've won four games in a row, and the Champions League helps us improve. For now we're very happy with what wev'e achieved."

Watch highlights of Iličić's four-goal display
Watch highlights of Iličić's four-goal display

Key stats

  • Kevin Gameiro is the first player to score for three different Spanish teams in the UEFA Champions League, having previously struck three times for Atlético Madrid and once for Sevilla.
  • Josip Iličić is the first player to score four goals in a UEFA Champions League knockout away game and has now notched 16 goals in his last 12 matches in all competitions.
  • Atalanta have scored four or more goals in six of their last 12 matches and have hit the net 28 times in their last seven games.
  • Despite reaching their fourth round of 16 tie in the UEFA Champions League, Valencia are still awaiting their first victory in a match at this stage (D3 L5).

Line-ups

Valencia: Cillessen; Wass, Coquelin (Cheryshev 74), Diakhaby (Gonçalo Guedes 46), Gayà; Torres, Parejo; Kondogbia, Carlos Soler; Gameiro, Rodrigo (Florenzi 79)
Atalanta: Sportiello; Djimsiti, Caldara, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon (Zapata 44), Freuler, Gosens; Pašalić (Tameze 83); Iličić, Gómez (Malinovskyi 78)