Atalanta Champions League goal hero Josip Ilicic has explained the thought process behind the two penalties he won against Valencia on Tuesday night.
The Slovenian forward scored all four goals as the Italian side beat Los Che 4-3 behind closed doors at the Mestalla — sealing progression to the quarter-finals with an 8-4 aggregate win.
Ilicic’s show-stopping night at the Mestalla: Five things to know…
- Atalanta beat Valencia 4-3 at the Mestalla on Tuesday to seal an 8-4 aggregate win in the UCL round-of-16.
- Ilicic scored all four goals for the Italian side on the night.
- The Slovenian’s first two goals came from the penalty spot.
- And he has now gone into detail about how he won the spot-kicks.
- Ilicic has scored 21 goals in all competitions this season — more than any other Atalanta player.
Ilicic’s first two strikes came from the penalty spot, with the first — after just three minutes — coming after the 32-year-old checked back inside, drawing an unsuccessful slide tackle from Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby.
“I just focus on what I am doing, not the defenders who are in front of me,” Ilicic said of the first incident. “I see a space and I go there.
“I saw [the defender] made a sliding tackle that he shouldn’t have done, so if I managed to cut back, he’d inevitably catch me for a penalty.”
For the second penalty, Ilicic claims he allowed the ball to bounce, anticipating that it would skim quickly off the wet turf and hit Diakhaby on the hand.
Although that may sound rather fanciful, replays of the incident show just how quickly Ilicic shouted for the handball, suggesting he did indeed premeditate the action.
He added: “On the second penalty too, it was a wet turf, so I imagined it would take that bounce and hit him on the hand, as it was very wide.
“I tend to only worry about what I need to do, though, not the identity of the defender I am taking on. I don’t really study them.”