Christopher Nkunku scored twice in Bergamo as RB Leipzig’s 2-0 win over Atalanta carried the in-form Bundesliga aspect by way of to the Europa League semi-finals.
The France striker was readily available to tuck dwelling an early probability, a predator’s objective, and his late penalty sealed a 3-1 combination triumph, elevating the potential of Leipzig lifting a primary European trophy of their historical past.
Head coach Domenico Tedesco has reworked Leipzig’s fortunes since changing Jesse Marsch in December and the German guests had an excessive amount of for his or her Italian hosts right here.
After seven objectives within the Champions League this season, Nkunku now has three on this competitors. Two years after a Champions League semi-final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, the German outfit are again on the enterprise finish of a European marketing campaign.
Atalanta’s Davide Zappacosta drew a good early save from Leipzig captain Peter Gulacsi, who received down effectively to dam a low shot at his close to submit.
Leipzig then took the all-important 18th-minute lead when Konrad Laimer was allowed to run 50 yards unchallenged alongside the precise flank and into the Atalanta penalty space, earlier than slicing again for Nkunku to smash in off the precise submit from shut vary.
Dani Olmo had a chip comfortably caught by Juan Musso as Leipzig sought a second objective, whereas on the different finish a low shot from Jeremie Boga was blocked.
Atalanta wished a penalty early within the second half when Ruslan Malinovskiy’s highly effective free-kick hit Olmo on the arm, and it seemed a reputable shout, but the hosts had been denied after a VAR evaluation.
Laimer virtually added a second for Leipzig when a speedy counter-attack ended with Musso seemingly making a multitude of studying his defenders’ intentions, having to scramble to maintain the lead down to 1 objective.
Nkunku was sharp for Leipzig and wriggled by way of to create an opportunity for himself as Musso blocked at the price of a nook. As Atalanta grew to become more and more determined, a foul by Musso on Nkunku gave the striker an opportunity to complete the tie, which he took by firing excessive into the left nook.
What does it imply?
Atalanta will need to have been beginning to really feel invincible in Europe at their Gewiss Stadium dwelling, given they’d not beforehand misplaced at dwelling in 11 earlier UEFA Cup or Europa League matches, together with a 3-2 win over Leipzig’s Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen within the final 16 this season.
Right here they had been caught out by a Leipzig aspect who posed such menace on the break and performed with the arrogance befitting a workforce who’ve misplaced solely as soon as in 2022. In contrast to the aspect that received the higher of them on home obligation in February – Bayern Munich – this German outfit might effectively finish the season with a European trophy.
Leipzig get their reward
Atalanta have misplaced their final two Serie A video games, sliding to eighth as a consequence, and so they lacked the verve of current incarnations of this workforce.
They noticed loads of the ball, with 61.7 per cent of possession within the second half, however struggled to create notable probabilities. Though they led the shot rely 16-11, solely three of these makes an attempt discovered the goal and half had been taken from exterior the penalty space. Leipzig had 11 photographs, seven hitting the goal, and solely three had been from past the 18-yard field. Leipzig led the best way by way of anticipated objectives, by 2.12 to 1.37, reflecting their higher probabilities.
Nkunku makes the distinction
It pays to have a finisher like Nkunku, which is why France boss Didier Deschamps referred to as up the 24-year-old and gave him his first two caps for Les Bleus in March. Maybe he can be an element within the World Cup on the finish of the 12 months too.
Tedesco is the lucky membership coach to have Nkunku in his ranks, and from his three photographs on Thursday the striker discovered the goal every time. He maybe struck a little bit fortunate when his opener rapped the submit on its manner in, however Nkunku’s outstanding haul in Europe this season speaks volumes of his blossoming skill.
Leipzig had been ready to be taught their semi-final opponents, with Braga and Rangers duking it out for the precise. Subsequent for Leipzig within the Bundesliga is a conflict with Leverkusen on Sunday, whereas Atalanta return to Serie An obligation towards Hellas Verona on Monday.