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‘Atalanta will have a big party in June’ – Gasperini dedicates Valencia win to coronavirus sufferers

The Atalanta boss hopes their memorable Champions League run will provide some comfort to fans during a difficult time for the region

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini dedicated his side’s Champions League last-16 victory against Valencia to those affected by coronavirus outbreak.

Josip Ilicic scored four goals as the Italian side won 4-3 on the night to secure an 8-4 aggregate win that sends them through to the quarter-finals in what is the club’s first appearance in the competition.

The Slovenian forward also wrote himself into the record books by becoming the oldest player to score a hat-trick away from home in the Champions League and just the fourth player to score four or more in a knockout tie in the competition.

Despite being a thrilling encounter, no fans were able to see it as the game was played behind closed at the Mestalla, with authorities across Europe scrambling to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Domestic and European matches across the continent, including La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga, are to be played behind doors in the next few weeks as officials seek to limit large gatherings of people.

Italy is one of the countries to be worst-affected by the virus, particularly Bergamo in the northern Lombardy region where Atalanta are based.

People in the region have been in lockdown since last weekend, with public gatherings banned and all movement other than for work and emergency services restricted.​

That was extended to a country-wide lockdown on Monday, resulting in all sport, including Serie A, being suspended indefinitely.

It means Atalanta are unlikely to play another Serie A fixture until at least the start of next month, with the fate of their Champions League quarter-final also uncertain.

At the final whistle on Tuesday all the players held up a shirt to the cameras which had the message: “Bergamo, this is for you. Never give up!”

Gasperini hopes that the victory will provide some joy for those currently affected by the outbreak and pledged to celebrate the team’s achievements properly when the situation has eased.

“We are very happy for what this result represents for a territory that is suffering so much,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“We know that many people followed us at home, who cannot go out to celebrate. But we will have time to do it in June at the end of the championship.

“We will have a big party for everything, also for this danger that we will defeat.”

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