RB Leipzig stormed into a European Cup semi-final for the second time in the club’s young history. Coach Domenico Tedesco’s side won the Europa League quarter-final second leg at Atalanta Bergamo 2-0.
Domenico Tedesco took a moment before giving free rein to his emotions. After a controlled smile and a respectful handshake with fellow coach Gian Piero Gasperini, the RB Leipzig coach approached his players and gave them a warm hug. The title dream is alive: thanks to double striker Christopher Nkunku, RB burst into a European Cup semi-final for the second time in the history of his young club.
Tedesco’s team won the Europa League quarter-final second leg at Atalanta Bergamo 2-0 (1-0) and thus climbed into the top four. The first leg a week ago in Leipzig ended 1-1.
“The key was our moments of change after winning the ball,” Tedesco said. Captain Peter Gulacsi also enthused: “We closed spaces and defended well up front.
Nkunku gives RB Leipzig the lead
Nkunku (18th) with his first goal after a perfectly executed counter-attack brought strong cheers for the Leipzigers, who are now unbeaten for 13 consecutive competitive games. He himself got the penalty (87th) shortly before the end.
In the second half, RB initially got lucky when referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain) didn’t award a penalty after a handball from Dani Olmo and a one-minute video (50th). “I saw straight away that it wasn’t,” Tedesco said. “It’s amazing that he comes out and looks at him.”
In the semi-final, the Saxons meet Glasgow Rangers. However, defenders Willi Orban and Mohamed Simakan are suspended for the first leg. Two years ago, RB reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.
In front of 19,500 fans at the Gewiss Stadion, Leipzig started with almost the same starting XI which revealed some weaknesses in the first leg. Only Simakan replaces Lukas Klostermann in the three-man defense. Tedesco had demanded beforehand that he accept the fight against the “machines”, as he called the physically robust Italians, who played men scoring almost all the field: “We have to improve, otherwise it will be difficult.”
Leipzig improve with increased playing time
However, the hosts got off to a better start. After about a quarter of an hour, RB also woke up – and was rewarded with the first goal. After solid preliminary work from Konrad Laimer on the right Nkunku finished.
This shot worked. The Italians, who initially only sat on the bench with Luis Muriel, who had dominated the first leg as a goalscorer and was a constant source of trouble, were no longer so determined. RB was safer defensively and was able to release pressure better. With the best outdoor conditions, with temperatures around 20 degrees and a perfectly maintained pitch, Leipzig felt better and better as the game went on.
After the change of sides, the Italian Serie A table night again increased the pressure, the match became much more eventful. However, the Leipzigers were largely in order and repeatedly tried to counterattack and were dangerous in the process.
Atalanta Bergamo – RB Leipzig: The voices
Domenico Tedesco (RB Leipzig coach): “We are very happy. It was a very difficult game. We knew after the first leg what kind of opponents we had here. The idea was to go down a bit so as not to leave too much space. Defended us well , won the ball deep in his own half. We did a really good job of staying in possession. Overall it was a great team effort, I’m proud of that. team.”
Atalanta Bergamo – RB Leipzig: Match data
Bergamo: Musso – de Roon, Demiral (70th Scalvini), Palomino – Hateboer, Koopmeiners, Freuler (88th Pasalic), Zappacosta – Malinowski (58th Muriel), Boga (70th Miranchuk) – Zapata. – Trainer: Gasperini
Leipzig: Gulacsi – Simakan, Orban, Gvardiol (79 Poulsen) – Henrichs (73 Klostermann), Kampl (79 Halstenberg), Laimer (73 Adams), Angelino – Olmo – Silva (63 Szoboszlai), Nkunku. – Trainer: Tedesco
Doors: 0-1 Nkunku (18′), 0-2 Nkunku (87′, penalty)
Yellow cards: Zapata, Freuler, Demiral, Koopmeiners, Hateboer, Zappacosta – Henrichs, Orban (2), Simakan, Klostermann, Kampl (2)