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Photo by José Lorvão

Sporting CP through to Europa League playoffs with draw against Atalanta BC

By Sporting CP
01 Dec, 2023

​Os Leões come back to draw 1-1 with the Italian side

Sporting Clube de Portugal drew 1-1 against Atalanta BC in the fifth game of Group D in the Europa League, played in Bergamo.

Os Leões benefited from the result in the other game in the group to secure second place in the group, but to reach the Round of 16 of the Europa League they will have to contest a playoff with a team that has played in the Champions League up until now.

For this match in Italy, Rúben Amorim went with Antonio Adán, Jeremiah St. Juste, Ousmane Diomande, Gonçalo Inácio, Ricardo Esgaio, Morten Hjulmand, Hidemasa Morita, Matheus Reis, Pedro Gonçalves, Viktor Gyökeres and Francisco Trincão in his starting lineup.

Sporting CP had some difficulties imposing themselves in the opening minutes of the game, having to defend more and only managing to reach the Atalanta BC area without shots on target, while the Italian team created several opportunities to take the lead.

Still, the home side managed to come close to opening the scoring in the 20th minute: Morten Hjulmand found an unmarked Viktor Gyökeres and the Swede, who beat Berat Djimsiti in a footrace, entered the area and shot smartly, but the ball went just outside the far post.

Atalanta BC responded soon after and more accurately, getting off the mark in the 23rd minute with a goal from Gianluca Scamacca. The forward had previously placed the ball in Antonio Adán's goal but had it disallowed for offside.

Sporting CP found themselves at a disadvantage, but, in reality, they started to play better and more calmly after conceding. In the 36th minute, Pedro Gonçalves had a great chance to score, after receiving from Gyökeres, but his shot went awry and Juan Musso gathered without any problems.

Thus, the team went into the break trailing, and Amorim took the opportunity to make two changes at the start of the second half: Francisco Trincão and Ricardo Esgaio went off and Marcus Edwards and Geny Catamo entered.

These changes were felt right away, with Sporting CP beginning the second half unsettling the opposition defence. Edwards had an early chance blocked by Berat Djimsiti.

In the 56th minute, Edwards scored the equaliser: First he passed to Gyökeres and, after the return ball, he got beyond Djimsiti and ran to the center of the area, shooting accurately to make it 1-1.

The equaliser naturally gave even more encouragement to Sporting CP who proved themselves superior to Atalanta BC, managed to create more chances, Two went to Gonçalves, but the first shot hit the right and then left post and then second went just wide.

As a result of Sporting CP's threat to complete the turnaround, Atalanta BC's coach began to make changes, but  Amorim was also quick to respond, replacing Morten Hjulmand with Nuno Santos.

At the start of the last ten minutes, Sebastián Coates came on in place of Jeremiah St. Juste, with the captain proving decisive in some of the home team's final attacks. Sporting CP left the game with the clear feeling that they could have won and avoided the playoffs.

Their opponents for this tie will only be known on December 18th, and the games will be played on February 15th and 22nd, 2024.

For now, the next European game is on December 14th, in Alvalade, in a dead rubber with SK Sturm Graz.