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Atalanta book knockout place after miraculous Champions League turnaround

Italians qualify for last 16 despite losing first three games of their debut campaign.

Atalanta's players celebrate at the final whistle.
Atalanta's players celebrate at the final whistle.
Image: Efrem Lukatsky

Shakhtar Donetsk 0

Atalanta 3

ATALANTA REACHED THE Champions League last 16 in their first season in the tournament after a 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in Group C.

The Italians, who were without a point until their fourth game in the campaign, joined Manchester City in the knock-out stages as Dinamo Zagreb failed to beat the English champions in Croatia, losing 4-1.

Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic and Robin Gosens scored in the second half for the side who finished third in Serie A last season to reach the top tier of European football for the first time.

The visitors, who started their debut campaign with three straight defeats before a draw with City, started the more positive.

Attacking midfielders Pasalic and Alejandro Gomez both failed to open the scoring despite superb chances in the first quarter of an hour.

Castagne broke the deadlock for the travelling side on 67 minutes despite VAR checking if captain Gomez was offside.

Midfielder Castagne slotted home from Gomez’s cross after tidy build-up play on the edge of the Shakhtar box.

The home side’s hopes of reaching the knockouts were dealt a blow after a bizarre refereeing decision.

Thorsten Schiffner sent defender Dodo off on 77 minutes for striking an opponent but the right-back seemed to make minimal contact with Remo Freuler.

Gasperini’s men clinched their place in the club’s history books with nine minutes to play as Pasalic beat Andriy Pyatov with the slightest of touches from a Ruslan Malinovskyi free-kick hit from near the corner flag.

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Gosens added the third in the fourth minute of injury time after a Taras Stepanenko defensive howler in his own penalty area.

© – AFP, 2019

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