In the knowledge a point would’ve seen them across the line, Villarreal was not willing to take any chances, instead of taking the game to the hosts themselves. Rewarded for their attacking intent inside the opening five minutes, Arnaut Danjuma had the calmness of mind to slot underneath an onrushing Juan Musso in the Atalanta goal.
With just one clean sheet in their previous 16 UCL fixtures, an Atalanta equaliser began to look like an inevitability, with Rafael Tolói and Remo Freuler both threatening the visitors’ goal. Instead, it would be Villarreal who found a second goal just before the break, when Étienne Capoue fired into the roof of the net, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb after the break.
After the original fixture was delayed 22 hours due to heavy snowfall, the only threat to Villarreal’s progression seemed to be the heavy Bergamo rain. As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, and for Atalanta, this was the case when Danjuma added a second just after the break. Wriggling to find room inside the box, the Dutchman slotted home his second of the evening, seemingly confirming his side’s place in the UCL knockouts.
Having found the net in all but one of their 21 matches this season, it was perhaps no surprise to see Atalanta find a breakthrough at last. Ruslan Malinovskyi’s deflected shot opened the scoring for the hosts, before a delicately dinked effort from Duván Zapata set up a tense finish. A Luis Muriel missile from the edge of the box almost sunk the ‘Yellow Submarine’, but it wasn’t to be for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who fail to progress from a UCL group stage for the first time in their history.