osip Ilicic of Atalanta celebrates with his team to an empty stand after he scores his teams second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Valencia CF and Atalanta at Estadio Mestalla on March 10,
Estadio de Mestalla, Champions League last-16 second leg – Valencia 3 (Kevin Gameiro 21, 51, Torres 67) Atalanta 4 (Ilicic 3(p), 43(p), 71, 82) (Atalanta win 8-4 on aggregate)
Josip Ilicic scored four goals as Atalanta beat Valencia 4-3 away to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time, winning 8-4 on aggregate.
In an empty Mestalla Stadium due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the hosts made a nightmare start as Mouctar Diakhaby brought down Ilicic to concede a penalty after four minutes with the Slovenian converting the spot kick.
Albert Celades' side gave themselves a lifeline when they took advantage of a loose ball with Kevin Gameiro netting the equaliser.
But Diakhaby's night got even worse when he was penalised for handball, giving the visitors another penalty which Ilicic dispatched for his 18th goal of the season.
Gian Piero Gasperini brought on striker Duvan Zapata for the injured Marten De Roon on the stroke of half-time, showing his side had no intentions of shutting up shop.
Their trademark attacking flair was their undoing at times in the second half with Gameiro grabbing an equaliser with a powerful header.
And the Spanish side had a glimmer of hope when Fernan Torres took an advantage of poor goalkeeping from Marco Sportiello, playing instead of the injured Pierluigi Gollini, to loft the ball over him to make it 3-2.
But any prospect of an unlikely Italian job were dashed when Ilicic completed his hat-trick with another slick finish from close range.
The Slovenian signalled to be taken off but Gaspirini kept him on the field and he responded with another goal, the best of the lot, with a first time strike into the top corner to seal yet another impressive victory.
Image credit: Getty Images
How far can free-scoring Atalanta go?
You score two, we score three. Or you score three and we will score four seems to be the modus operandi for the Italian side. It has been great to watch with eight goals over two legs and it has been successful with them lying fourth in Serie A and through to their first Champions League quarter-final.
They certainly need Marten De Roon for some defensive cover in midfield if they are to continue with their gung-ho style against better opponents in the next round. But having scored more than 70 goals already this season, they could spring another surprise.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Josip Ilicic (Atalanta): The Slovenian seems to be in the prime of his career at 32 years old. Atalanta have a wealth of attacking options but Ilicic showed he is their main goal threat with some emphatic finishes and link up play with Zapata.
2' - PENALTY TO ATALANTA! Diakhaby trips Ilicic after he cut back near the byline. After a VAR review, Ilicic strolls up and fires it straight down the middle. It is now 5-1 on aggregate.
21' - GOAL FOR VALENCIA! The visitors give the ball away in their own half, Gameiro latches onto a misunderstanding between Palomino and the keeper to latch onto a loose ball and fire it in for the equaliser.
43' - ATALANTA SCORE THE PENALTY! Ilicic scores again from the penalty spot, sensing the keeper the wrong way with a low strike.
50' - WOODWORK! Zapata tees up Freuler who cracks a wonderful effort from the edge of the box against the crossbar.
51' - GOAL FOR VALENCIA! Lovely cross from the right from Torres and Gameiro powers in a header, to make it 6-3 on aggregate.
67' - GOAL FOR VALENCIA! Torres lofts the ball over the onrushing keeper from outside the box to score! Poor goalkeeping.
71' - GOAL FOR ATALANTA! Hat-trick for Ilicic. Zapata's cross takes a deflection falls to him and he fires the ball into the bottom corner.
82' - GOAL FOR ATALANTA! Another goal for Ilicic with a first time strike into the top corner from inside the box from Freuler's lay off.
Josip Iličić has become the oldest player to score an away Champions League hat-trick, aged 32 years and 41 days.
Valencia have not reached the last eight of the Champions League since 2007.
Atalanta are the first Champions League debutant to reach the quarter-final stage since Leicester City in 2016-17 and the first Italian side to do so since Lazio in the 1999-00 campaign.