Atalanta defeated Champions League qualification rivals Lazio on Matchday 22 of the 2022/23 Serie A campaign, with a Player of the Week performance from striker Rasmus Hojlund helping to propel them past the side from the capital.
Defender Davide Zappacosta had set La Dea onto the road to victory with a stunning opener on 23 minutes, but it was the determination and energy of the Danish frontman that impressed spectators in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night during a 2-0 win.
Hojlund at home in Serie A
Since arriving in Bergamo in August 2022 from Austrian club Sturm Graz, the 20-year-old has had a bigger impact with the Nerazzurri this term, despite a €17 million fee to bring him to the peninsula. Although scoring just five times in 18 league appearances, Hojlund is now seen as the first-choice to lead the attack and only Youssoufa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund) and Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich) are younger scorers of five goals or more in Europe’s top five championships.
The former Copenhagen youth product’s direct style played a huge role in keeping Lazio custodian Ivan Provedel busy – making eight saves on the night – and ultimately brought Hojlund a well-deserved goal on 65 minutes. When Ademola Lookman broke down the left flank, the Danish international burst past the Biancocelesti defenders, who had begun their retreat at a significant advantage, and slide the ball home.
Defence key at both ends of the pitch
Although some may consider Zappacosta more wing-back than full-back, the ex-Chelsea man’s curling effort from the edge of the box was the 101st goal of Gian Piero Gasperini’s tenure scored by a defender. Since arriving in Bergamo for the 2016/17 campaign, this makes Atalanta the most prolific defence in Europe, with at least 10 goals more than their closest rival.
However, as the Nerazzurri fight for a seat at Europe’s top table increases, so does their resoluteness at the opposite end of the pitch. In Rome, they became the first club since Juventus in November 2022 to stop the Lazio attack from scoring and restricted them to just five shots on target.