Duvan Zapata

A Duván Zapata brace helped Atalanta to a matchweek 2 draw against Eredivisie Giants Ajax in the first Champions League game at the Gewiss Stadium.

The fixture was reminiscent of the Battle of Greek mythology between warriors (Ajax) and hunters (Atalanta). And it lived up to its billing as the Italians came from a two-goal deficit to earn a share of the spoils in an epic encounter.

After consecutive Serie A losses, Atalanta started the game brightly against the side who thrashed VV Venlo 13-0 only three days earlier. However, they conceded twice through a Dušan Tadić penalty and Lassina Traoré on the teenager’s full Champions League debut.

Duvan to the rescue

Ajax and their youngsters memorably missed out on the 2019 final to a late winner while Atalanta’s band of misfits reached last season’s quarterfinals in their first Champions League campaign.

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A European spectacle was on the cards between these two sides whose fearless attacking football made them minnows in the last two UCL seasons.

It was one which Atalanta’s centre forward, Duván Zapata, thrived upon as he scored his 51st and 52nd goals for La Dea.

Duvan Zapata
Duvan Zapata heads in at the far post.

The Colombian marksman pulled one back in the 54th minute with a towering header from a wonderful Papu Gómez cross, before an emphatic finish after being teed up by Mario Pašalić to equalize six minutes later. 

Zapata was constantly holding up play, linking it up and running the channels to threaten the visitors’ backline all evening. It was the kind of exquisite centre-forward play a la Didier Drogba, his role model. He is the highest goalscorer in the competition with three goals already, taking his total tally to five goals and four assists in seven appearances in all competitions.

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The 29-year-old is enjoying a bright start to the new season after his 18 goals with Iličić and Gómez made them the first trio to score 15 or more league goals for a Serie A club since 1952.

Duvan Zapata
BERGAMO, ITALY – OCTOBER 27: Duvan Zapata of Atalanta celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D stage match between Atalanta BC and Ajax Amsterdam at Gewiss Stadium on October 27, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tullio Puglia – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

His goalscoring prowess has been prominent in recent seasons as he now seizes his share of the spotlight in Europe.

Zapata’s exploits, and that of his teammates, have brought joy to the city of Bergamo which was worst-hit by Coronavirus in Italy. Their European adventure has been a massive lift to a place which recorded 40 deaths daily at the height of the virus.

Atalanta famously have Serie A’s 14th-highest wage bill, Infact, the club hosted its home games at San Siro in Milan last season due to their stadium not meeting Champions League standards at the time. Hence, the first UCL game at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in their second-ever campaign in Europe’s premier competition bore huge importance to the fans.

Although the occasion was marked in an empty stadium, Duván Zapata’s brace typified the resilience of this City and this lowly club.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.


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