Serie A returns this weekend. Be sure to give Atalanta a taste.
“When life gives you lemons, stick em’ in your bra.” said an old roommate’s girlfriend when her plans went to shit. My plan that Sunday afternoon was the Derby Della Madonnina. Atalanta v Roma was supposed to be an appetizer. A nibble of fruit and cheese before the main course. I caught one Atlanta counter. And another. 5 minutes became 10. 10 became 30. I was captured. Atalanta was pushing Roma around like your Aunt Milda’s liver onions at Thanksgiving.
I’d heard murmurs from podcasts and tweets that Atalanta were a team on the rise. A young side eager to carry out Gio Gasperini’s 3-4-3 masterplan. Still, I hadn’t seen for myself. After all, it was Atalanta. In my years of following Serie A I’d never watched them play. And today I needed a Roma win. If only to slow the Juventus juggernaut from a fifth consecutive Serie A title.
Atalanta ripped my loyalties apart. My logic cursed Salah’s spurned chances and bemoaned Roma’s lack of possession. My emotions whispered for Atalanta. Her back three. Her old-fashioned touch-line wing play. And her boots-full-of-tricks number 10 – Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, were irresistible.
Gasperini’s 3-4-3, oiled and quick, confounded Spaletti’s defensive shape. Atalanta’s movement and passing stirred up a level of anticipation usually reserved for individual players. The type of anticipation you’d feel when “Brazilian” Ronaldo dribbled full force at defenders. Or when Zidane trapped a pass from the air without spilling his espresso. Each feint a word before the punch line, each touch a silk scarf from a magician’s wrist.
However, this interruption of plans went beyond formations and players. It came to life from the stands. The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, built in 1928, remains a noir shrine to Italian football of yesteryear. Smoke from the flares of the Curva Nord 1907 brought the nostalgia of Serie A’ early 90s pomp. And the supporters were KISS concert rowdy.
Late on Papu added to the ruckus, bamboozling Pardes to draw the penalty. Franck Kessié converted as Spaletti’s strategy fell to the cutting room floor. The final whistle kicked Atalanta closer to a European adventure while Roma wedged deeper beneath The Old Lady’s heel. This wasn’t the Sunday I’d planned. This wasn’t the Sunday Roma planned. But when life gives you lemons, you stick em’ in your bra.