At the mid-way point of the 2021/22 campaign the young Atalanta squad were sitting nicely in third position, albeit a fair way behind runaway leaders Inter Milan who were still unbeaten. However, we had been knocked out of the Champions League, which meant spending the second half of the season in the Euro Cup.
January 2022 began with a draw at Inter, a 5-3 smashing of Salernitana then two impressive 2-1 home victories over AS Roma and Juventus, with exciting young striker Cosimo Marco Da Graca scoring the winner in both.
We got Besiktas in the first knockout round of the Euro Cup and beat them 1-0 in the home leg after a 3-3 draw in Turkey, thanks to two late goals by right winger Frederic Pereira. Things got tougher in the next round as we drew Chelsea, but somehow went to Stamford Bridge and grabbed a 1-0 win then repeated the feat in the home leg – with both goals scored by backup striker Ivaylo Aleksandrov.
At the same time the league form kicked into overdrive, recording consecutive 3-1 wins over Genoa and Torino, a 4-1 hammering of newly promoted Virtus Entella – in which Da Graca scored twice – then another 3-1 win over Chievo Verona led us to a club-record eight straight victories in all competitions.
With the league form strong, the European form also benefited and bizarrely, we kept drawing Italian sides. We went up against Fiorentina in the quarter-finals and beat them 1-0 away then 2-1 at home – in which Pereira and Da Graca were again on the scoresheet – which set up a tough looking semi-final against AC Milan.
The home leg was up first and we came out 2-0 victors, thanks to an Antonio Marin then an important 93rd-minute goal by substitute Simone Rabbi. And we backed that up by scoring two away goals in the San Siro thanks to Marin and midfielder Matteo Pessina, which sent us through despite a 3-2 loss. We were in the Euro Cup Final!
We went unbeaten in our last 10 league games of the season, winning six and drawing four, to seal third place in the league, allowing me to rest key players ahead of the exciting cup final.
And we again went up against Italian opponents in the final, with Napoli between us and a first-ever European trophy for Atalanta. Unsurprisingly, given it was two Italian sides in a cup final, it was a very tight affair, although we did outplay and outshoot them by 16 shots to 7. But a goal from Pereira proved vital, and we held on to win the Euro Cup for the first time in Atalanta’s history.
Da Graca finished the campaign as our top scorer, bagging 23 goals in all competitions of which 22 were in Serie A. Interestingly, holding midfielder Filippo Melegoni – who does play as a Deep Lying Playmaker – was our most creative force with 15 assists, while Pereira led the way in performances with an average rating of 7.25. Marin and Da Graca ranked first and second for shots in Serie A, which I’m not sure is a good or bad statistic.
And, if you’re interested, here’s how we tended to line up through the 2021/22 campaign.
Our fourth season ensured a third consecutive top-three finish, even though we were miles off the incredible points tally of Inter – who went the entire season unbeaten, closing the campaign with 12 straight victories and winning 30 matches through the season.
Next time, we’ll look to build on our European success and continue to promote our exciting young talents coming through the ranks at Atalanta.