Heartbreak for Atalanta, heartbreak for Bergamo, one of the worst affected cities by the coronavirus and which deserved just another moment of the joy they have been savouring all season long with their team. But today, when they had a historic semi-final spot within their reach, football did its thing and broke many people’s hearts to brighten those of many others.
In the first half, Atalanta were themselves. They moved, switched positions and scored despite the risk of leaving their backs exposed. Others would have trembled to do that against PSG, but Gasperini didn’t. Yet what was most surprising was their drop in intensity after the break. “Teams often are very good for the first 60 / 70 minutes and then the last 20 they suffer. For 70 minutes we are maybe on the same level as them. But the last 20 minutes we can keep the same intensity”, De Roon once said to highlight how they never, bar today, get exhausted.
For PSG, it was almost a one-man show, at least until Mbappé came on to shake up the final 30 minutes. Neymar, having escaped Messi’s shadow, ended up emulating Leo’s importance for the Parisians. On his own, Neymar had to be Neymar plus Verratti, Di María and Mbappé. He orchestrated, he created, he dribbled. In the opening 45 minutes, PSG had 4 shots and 13 dribbles. 4 and 10 of those, respectively, were from Ney.
It is true he was imprecise in two one-on-ones, but his display was brutal. A rebel. Top 2 in the world, without a doubt. It is greatly thanks to his often underrated genius that PSG are the first semi-finalists of the Champions League.