Thursday, June 8, 2023

RB Leipzig 1-1 Atalanta: Zappacosta blunder sets up Bergamo decider

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 7 Apr 2022


RB Leipzig and Atalanta shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday to set up a winner-takes-all decider in Bergamo.

Domenico Tedesco’s Bundesliga side made it 10 games unbeaten across all competitions with a 4-1 thumping of Borussia Dortmund on Saturday but found themselves behind at the Red Bull Arena when Luis Muriel struck after 17 minutes.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s visitors thought they had escaped lightly when Andre Silva saw his penalty saved by Juan Musso after the break, but Davide Zappacosta miscued into his own goal to restore parity.

Neither team could find a late winner, with Teun Koopmeiners and Dominik Szoboszlai denied by the woodwork, which leaves it all to play for in the return leg next Thursday.

Christopher Nkunku skewed a half-chance wide from Benjamin Henrichs’ mishit strike in an otherwise uneventful opening to the contest.

But Muriel sparked the tie into life when he ghosted inside from the left flank before expertly whipping into the top-right corner for his fourth goal in European competition this season, his best tally.

Muriel almost repeated the trick shortly after but his left-footed drive narrowly evaded the far corner, before the woodwork denied Silva and Mario Pasalic at either end.

Peter Gulacsi pushed away a teasing Muriel curler from range after the interval, before Merih Demiral needlessly felled Nkunku inside the area.

Musso denied Silva’s spot-kick before an excellent reflex save thwarted Willi Orban on the rebound, but Leipzig equalised moments later when Zappacosta inadvertently turned Angelino’s cross into his own net.

Gulacsi then tipped a low Koopmeiners effort onto the post and Szoboszlai headed onto the crossbar, while Lukas Klostermann saw a late strike denied on the line following a goalmouth scramble from Emil Forsberg’s corner as neither side could be separated.

What does it mean? Leipzig faced with Italian job

Leipzig have only ever met one Italian side in European competition, eliminating Napoli in the round-of-32 in this competition back in 2017-18, but it will be a tough task heading to Bergamo.

All of Atalanta’s seven meetings with German sides have come in the knockout stages of Europe, only failing to progress against Dortmund, and they will now look to complete the job on home soil to make it into the last four.

Classy Klostermann

Klostermann coasted through the entertaining draw in imperious fashion as it appeared he had more time in possession than any other player, and he almost stole victory at the end as well.

The German, acting as Tedesco’s right-sided centre-back in a three-man defence, recorded a game-high 109 touches, completed a game-leading 89 passes and was successful in all of his four duels.

Sorry Silva offers little support

Nkunku had been involved in more goals (nine – eight goals and 1 assist) than he had played games (eight) in European competition this season, so Silva may have been expected to play a supporting role.

However, not only did the Portugal international spurn the chance from 12 yards, he also registered just 36 touches – the fewest of any Leipzig starter – in a timid showing.

What’s next?

The pair meet again for the return leg in Italy in a week’s time. Before that, Leipzig host Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Sunday, when Atalanta visit Sassuolo in Serie A.


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