Gómez, Zapata in control as Atalanta wins 4-0 at Midtjylland

HERNING, Denmark (AP) — Alejandro “Papu” Gómez scored a stunning goal as Atalanta routed FC Midtjylland 4-0 in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

Duván Zapata set up that goal and the Colombia forward also scored — and had a hand in his side’s third goal — as Atalanta got its second season in the Champions League off to a great start.

Zapata also hit the post early on.

It was the perfect way for Atalanta to react after its surprising 4-1 defeat at Napoli in Serie A on Saturday.

“When you play matches every three days that can happen,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. “This team has always reacted well.

“Today we needed to win, it wasn’t as easy as the result might suggest. It won’t be easy either for the other teams to come here to play.”

Liverpool won 1-0 at Ajax in the other Group D match.

Host Midtjylland was making its first appearance in the Champions League group stage. Atalanta had appeared in the competition for the first time last year and remarkably reached the quarterfinals.

“It was a tough game and a tough experience for us,” Midtjylland coach Brian Priske said. “I thought we had a good start. But in a few minutes, everything can change, and we had 15 bad minutes in the first half, and that decided the game.”

Atalanta lost its Champions League opener last year 4-0 and this match highlighted how much the team has progressed.

“We showed we improved from the past season — last year we lost the first game 4-0, this time we won 4-0,” Atalanta midfielder Marten de Roon said. “The team is more mature.”

Atalanta broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.

Cristian Romero acrobatically knocked down Rafael Tolói’s cross and Zapata fired it into the far corner. Zapata also scored Atalanta’s first Champions League goal last season.

Midtjylland almost leveled in the 34th when Frank Onyeka headed a corner wide but shortly after the Danish side found itself further behind.

Zapata held up the ball and laid it off to Gómez who thumped a fantastic shot into the back of the net from outside the area.

Zapata was also involved three minutes from halftime as his effort was parried by Midtjylland goalkeeper Jesper Hansen but Luis Muriel turned in the rebound.

Aleksei Miranchuk came on for Zapata 10 minutes from time for his Atalanta debut and curled an impressive effort into the left side of the net for his side’s fifth goal.

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