Atalanta were spectacularly inconsistent in this 2-2 thriller, leading, then trailing in Spain, eventually clinging to 2-2 against 10-man Villarreal with some great Juan Musso saves.
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La Dea had stuttered so far in Serie A with four points from three rounds, beaten by Fiorentina at the weekend, and missed Luis Muriel and Hans Hateboer, with Josip Ilicic not 100 per cent fit. Both teams received a surprise boost before kick-off with news Young Boys had beaten 10-man Manchester United in their group.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s men took control from the start with plenty of possession and took a deserved lead too, as after a Davide Zappacosta cross was not cleared properly, Duvan Zapata laid it off with his back to goal for Remo Freuler to drill home from 14 yards.
Moments later it could’ve been 2-0 after another error, this time Geronimo Rulli parrying from Robin Gosens, while Zappacosta saw his effort blocked by Raul Albiol.
Villarreal slowly got into the game after a poor start and Juan Musso had to make a desperate save one-on-one at the near post from Gerard Moreno.
Atalanta were caught napping in defence for the equaliser, as a deflected Alfonso Pedraza effort went beyond Freuler and found Manu Trigueros to tap in from close range.
That sparked a sudden surge of confidence from the hosts, forcing Musso to make a desperate save from point-blank range on Moreno’s header from a Parejo free kick.
Gasperini gave his team a talking to at half-time and they came out firing, Rulli palming a Malinovskyi strike out from the top corner, then Gosens sprung the offside trap only to come sliding in and turn wide.
Duvan Zapata was unlucky not to restore their lead on 53 minutes, his glancing header on a corner clipping the top of the crossbar.
Gerard Moreno flicked wide when springing the offside trap, but Atalanta went behind when Freuler was pressed playing out from the back and the Moreno pass was deflected, Arnaut Groenveld quickest to react on the half-volley from 10 yards.
However, Atalanta got back on level terms when Miranchuk intelligently flicked on the Josip Ilicic pass with his heel, finding Gosens at full stretch to turn in from close range.
Moments later, Villarreal went down to 10 men, as substitute Francis Coquelin received his second yellow card, having been on the pitch for just 24 minutes.
Atalanta poured forward in search of a winner, but ultimately had to thank Musso for another great save on Moreno’s header in stoppages.
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Freuler 6 (A), Trigueros 39 (V), Groenveld 73 (V), Gosens 83 (A)
Sent off: Coquelin 84 (V)