Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini was left with a mixture of regret and pride in his team after two late goals by Paris Saint Germain ended the Italian club’s Champions League dream.
The Bergamo club was moments away from a place in the last four in its first season in Europe’s elite club competition before French champion PSG struck twice to grab a 2-1 victory.
“There is a great sense of regret. It seemed we were going to do it and that would have been a great achievement,” said Gasperini, whose side had taken a first-half lead.
“We still have (the memory of) a Champions League where we have grown as a team against some of the greats of Europe and I can’t do anything other than thank my lads,” he added.
A beautiful curling shot from Mario Pasalic in the 27th minute had put Atalanta ahead and it held out until the 90th when Brazilian defender Marquinhos equalised and substitute Eric Choupo-Moting added the decisive blow in stoppage time.
“There was not long to go and it seemed we had done it but when you play against some of the strongest in the world at a technical and athletic level then it becomes tough,” said Gasperini, whose side were on the back foot after Kylian Mbappe, on the bench due to an ankle injury, came on in the 60th minute.
“The introduction of Mbappe was decisive but we did everything that we were looking to do, going toe-to-toe with them. It is hard to do more than that,” added Gasperini, who said his team would learn a painful lesson from the defeat.
“The Champions League is a special competition – it is the competition of details and the details are those that determine things when it is a tight game.
“On set pieces, where we were strong and prepared, there was the opportunity for (Berat) Djimsiti and some counter-attacks where we could have done better, but they are details,” he said.
While the game took place behind closed doors without any fans, Gasperini said he had noticed that some of his team’s supporters had travelled to the Estadio da Luz to greet them.
“Outside the stadium there were many people from Bergamo and the people of Bergamo still celebrate for the sense of belonging we have and because they saw the team give everything with enthusiasm and passion.
“We are happy all the same and next year we will restart to improve. I mean improve in our game because in terms of results it is tricky”.