A 2-1 loss in Italy ends the Europa League hopes

Sporting Clube de Portugal were eliminated from the UEFA Europa League after losing 2-1 away to Atalanta BC in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie. The aggregate score ended up 3-2 to the Italian side.

On a slightly cold night in northern Italy, with the Stadio di Bergamo under renovation but practically full, hundreds of Sportinguistas could be heard offering their support.

Rubén Amorim made four changes to the starters, bringing in Jeremiah St. Juste, Gonçalo Inácio, Ricardo Esgaio and Marcus Edwards in place of Eduardo Quaresma, Sebastián Coates, Geny Catamo and Hidemasa Morita.

After three minutes, Atalanta BC could have scored when Gianluca Scamacca went through on Franco Israel, but his shot was saved by the goalkeeper. Despite that scare, Sporting CP performed well in several aspects and managed to move the ball around with great quality in the midfield, making life difficult for their opponents.

Nevertheless, Atalanta BC continued to create more danger, including headers from Berat Djimsiti -which hit the post- and from Sead Kolašinac, who was centimetres away off a cross from Emil Holm.

At the other end, Francisco Trincão could have had an attempt in the 23rd minute, when he recovered the ball in a dangerous area and was in a good position to shoot, but the defence ended up clearing the ball away. Viktor Gyökeres had a somewhat different task than usual, trying to help the team break through the strong press of Isak Hien, his compatriot. In the 32nd minute, Atalanta BC approached goal again with a well-taken cross from Ademola Lookman, but Scamacca was unable to reach it to get a shot off.

Sporting CP got the opening goal in the 33rd minute with a move through the middle. Pedro Gonçalves combined very well with Viktor Gyökeres, who returned the ball to the Portuguese. The finish past goalkeeper Juan Musso was perfectly placed to make it 0-1 on the night.

A negative followed, however, as Gonçalves was injured shortly after and ended up going off in tears, replaced by Daniel Bragança.

Before half-time, the highlight was Atalanta BC’s chance for Holm, shooting straight at Franco Israel. The Uruguayan was called upon again in the 45th minute, spectacularly saving  Scamacca’s shot.

The second half began with an equaliser for the Italians, when Éderson crossed from the right and the ball went through the crowd, before Ademola Lookman turned it in at the far post.

Marcus Edwards tried a similar move in the 54th minute, sending a cross into the Atalanta BC area, but no one managed the vital deflection. Shortly afterwards, Gyökeres looked for the Englishman with a backheeled pass, but Juan Musso was quick to smother it.

Atalanta BC managed to turn the scoreline around in the 59th minute, when Aleksei Miranchuk set up Scamacca to make it 2-1.

Amorim brought on Geny Catamo and Nuno Santos shortly after the goal, in place of Ricardo Esgaio and Matheus Reis, respectively.

Sporting CP tried to react and Bragança, with a strong shot from distance, forced Juan Musso to make a spectacular save.

St. Juste and Trincão made way for Eduardo Quaresma and Paulinho for the final quarter hour. Catamo tried his luck with a shot over the top and then provided a setup for Edwards, who suffered an inopportune slip.

Bragança put Paulinho through with a great long pass, but the striker’s attempted chip over the goalkeeper was unsuccessful.  tried to hit the opposing goalkeeper without success.

Edwards crossed perfectly for Paulinho, who headed wide, then the Englishman also ha a shot go over off the rebound after an attack by Nuno Santos.

The score remained 2-1 and Sporting CP’s European journey for 2023/24 ended in Bergamo. The team will play again on Sunday, hosting Boavista FC in Liga Portugal.

Sporting CP: Franco Israel [GK], Jeremiah St. Juste (Eduardo Quaresma, 74’), Ousmane Diomande, Gonçalo Inácio [C], Ricardo Esgaio (Geny Catamo, 61’), Morten Hjulmand, Pedro Gonçalves (Daniel Bragança, 36’), Matheus Reis (Nuno Santos, 61’), Marcus Edwards, Francisco Trincão (Paulinho, 74’) e Viktor Gyökeres.