Skip to content

Atalanta bounce Liverpool as Klopp's final season suffers new blow


Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

Liverpool were knocked out of the Europa League by Atalanta on Thursday as Jurgen Klopp's final season with the Reds took another downward turn, their Italian opponents reaching the semi-finals 3-1 on aggregate.

Atalanta are in the last four of a European competition for the first time since 1988, despite Mohamed Salah's early penalty giving Liverpool a 1-0 second-leg win, thanks to their three-goal lead established in the quarter-final first leg at Anfield last week.

In what is becoming a sobering climax to the season, Liverpool have won just four of their last nine games in all competitions and again looked tired after having played 52 games this campaign.

Klopp may well only have the League Cup to show for his final season on Merseyside as the German's team have been eliminated from the FA Cup and Europa League and trail Manchester City in the Premier League title race by two points.

"We didn't lose the game or tie tonight. We lost it at home. They deserved to go through. When you win a tie against us 3-1 in this way, then you deserve to go through," Klopp told reporters.

"Disappointed that we didn't go through, but I'm not angry or frustrated or anything like that. Now we need to focus on the league."

Gian Piero Gasperini called Thursday's match probably the most important Atalanta had ever played, and his players were hailed as heroes at the final whistle by a pulsating crowd at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo.

Fireworks were launched into the air from behind the stands, while in the ground, supporters bounced and roared at a huge victory for their team against giants of European football.

Atalanta last reached the semi-finals of a European competition in 1988 when they were knocked out of the old Cup Winners' Cup by Mechelen.

They were then a Serie B team, but the future is increasingly bright for a historically small, provincial club which has been punching well above its weight ever since Gasperini took charge in 2016.

'So much heart'

Reaching the last four even trumps their run to 2020 Champions League quarter-finals, where they were desperately unlucky to lose to Paris Saint-Germain.

That run came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as Bergamo became the epicentre of a deadly global health crisis.

And Atalanta still have the opportunity to crown Gasperini's reign with the club's first major trophy since the Italian Cup in 1963.

"We've knocked out a great team and a great coach. We did it by putting in two performances in which we really gave everything. So much heart," said Gasperini to Sky Sport.

The damage was done for Liverpool in the first leg, the Reds' almost mythical fightback powers unable to close a three-goal gap from their disastrous first-leg display.

Atalanta literally handed Liverpool a lifeline in the fifth minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold cross struck Matteo Ruggeri's arm, allowing Salah to calmy cut the gap to two goals.

The away side had their tails up and Atalanta struggled to cope with Liverpool's pressing and quick passing.

But they gave Liverpool a couple of scares, first when Aleksei Miranchuk just failed to control Gianluca Scamacca's through ball in the 19th minute before the Russian dragged another decent opportunity wide.

And they were saved by Salah wasting a great chance to net his second of the night five minutes before the break when he sent a lob well wide after being clipped through by Cody Gakpo.

Both sides exchanged half-chances in the second half as Atalanta sat deep and tried to both frustrate Liverpool and hit them on the break.

Scamacca smashed over a presentable chance in the 67th minute after a great burst down the right from Davide Zappacosta, and Liverpool failed to break down an Atalanta side riding the crest of a wave.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox