In comparison, in what turned up to be a 3-5-2 tactical set-up, Davide Ballardini often went for a back three formation but without a known central attacking midfielder. The midfield trio was formed by Kevin Strootman, Milan Badelj, and Miha Zajc, while the line for Genoa was led by Marko Pjaca and Eldor Shomurodov.
Although the start of the game was not as hectic as someone would have thought it was, in the second minute of the match, Genoa had a pretty good opportunity to open the scoring. On the counter, Marko Pjaca got the ball, cut through the center of Atalanta’s defense, and went from the mid-range for goal, but his shot ended wide of the near post.
Five minutes later, when Kevin Strootman found Eldor Shomurodov on the edge of the box, Genoa created another half-decent chance, with international Uzbekistan sending the shot narrowly wide of the right post.
On the other hand, Atalanta, despite their tactically sophisticated and intricate positional play that allowed their attackers to receive the ball in intelligent positions in the final third, struggled to create something going forward. In the final zones of the pitch, Gasperini’s men were unable to retain ball control for long periods, mainly because of dangerous passes they tried to play.
It took Atalanta almost 20 minutes to record their first shot on target, with Duvan Zapata missing a decent point-blank chance as he hit the low ball towards the middle of the goal. After the ball suddenly rebounded in his direction, it followed with Josip Ilicic’s goal attempt from the edge of the box; however, his shot ended up well wide of the right post.
After a reasonably quiet time in the game, Genoa undoubtedly produced the best chance five minutes before the break in the first half. Miha Zajc tried to break through but the ball fell into Shomurodov’s path, who drilled a low shot from the box’s edge, but with his trailing leg, Pierluigi Gollini made a stunning save to deny Genoa the opening goal.