Atlanta bids farewell to Ilitch and discovers the Koopmaners

Atlanta bids farewell to Ilitch and discovers the Koopmaners

ROME (AP) — On a night when Atalanta said goodbye to iconic striker Josip Ilicek, the overachieving Bergamo club may have found a new star.

Theon Koopmans scored all three goals in a 3-1 win over Torino and Atalanta moved level on points with Serie A leaders Roma on Thursday.

The Koopminers now have four goals in two games after also scoring in a 1-0 win at Hellas Verona at the weekend. The 24-year-old Dutch midfielder is in his second season at Atlanta – and has already matched his four-goal output across the entire 2021-22 campaign.

The previous Dutch player to score a hat-trick in Serie A was Marco van Basten, who scored four goals for AC Milan three decades ago.

“It’s my first hat-trick in my career, not just in Serie A,” Koopminers said.

Atalanta, who are not playing in Europe this season, remain unbeaten and Roma trail only on goal difference.

“It’s a good start but we still have a long season, so we need to keep that energy,” Koopminers said.

Torino, who also entered unbeaten, finished three points behind.

Before kick-off, 34-year-old Ilechik was cheered by teammates and fans after the striker ended his contract with Atalanta by mutual consent.

Iličić scored all four goals as Atalanta won 4-3 in the second leg at Valencia to reach the quarter-finals of the 2020 Champions League as the team’s home, Bergamo, became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Afterwards, Iličić gave the match ball to the Bergamo hospital.

“This match will never be forgotten,” Ilitch said.

“I’m still playing,” Ilesich added. “I still have the desire to play.”

Converting a penalty in first-half added time, Koopminers added two more minutes after the break when he controlled the ball outside the area and fired a low shot through traffic that took a slight deflection.

“He’s a midfielder but he can prove himself (in attack),” Atlanta coach Gian Piero Gasparini said of Koopminers. “He can provide defensive coverage, if he finds space he knows how to attack.” He has a lot of power, he is a complete midfielder.”

After Nikola Vlasic pulled one back for Torino, Koopminers sealed it with another penalty at the right post.

Also, Bologna and Salernitana drew 1-1 with a late goal from Bolai Dia for Salernitana after a penalty by Marko Arnautovic.

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