Josep Ilicic appears to be back to his best after inspiring Atalanta to a 4-1 win at Benevento in Serie A on Saturday. Ilicic scored Atalantas opener, hit the post and had a hand in another two goals — for Rafael Toli and Duvan Zapata — after Marco Saus equalizer. Luis Muriel netted a spectacular fourth for Atalanta.
Personal problems caused Ilicic to miss several months last year.
Atalanta moved into fourth spot. It is six points behind league leader AC Milan, which hosts relegation-threatened Torino later. Genoa was also playing against Bologna later.
Benevento remained 10th.
Atalanta has made a great start to 2021, having scored eight goals in its two matches and conceded just one.
Ilicic put on a masterclass at Benevento and he set up a couple of chances before opening the scoring in the 30th minute. The Slovenia midfielder gathered the ball on the right and cut inside, dribbling past three defenders before firing into the bottom near corner.
Atalanta was dominating and Ilicic almost doubled his tally shortly before halftime but he sent a free kick crashing off the left post.
Benevento leveled five minutes after the break as halftime substitute Christian Pastina, who was making his Serie A debut, lifted a ball over the top for Sau to slide in at the back post.
Atalanta all but secured the win with two quickfire goals provided by Ilicic. In the 69th, Ilicic burst into the box following a quick one-two and although his effort was parried by Lorenzo Montip, Toli turned in the rebound. Two minutes later, a counterattack down the right saw Ilicic cross in for Zapata to volley into the bottom left corner.
Muriel was sent on shortly after and he curled a fantastic strike into the top right corner four minutes from time for his sixth goal in five matches.