Ilicic tears up record books against Valencia


Josip Ilicic.

Josip Ilicic.

Visiting Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic made history as his memorable campaign continued with a match-winning performance at Mestalla.

Josip Ilicic wrote himself into the record books by scoring four goals for Atalanta against Valencia to break Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s record and emerged the oldest player to score an away hat-trick in the Champions League.

The Slovenian, aged 32 years and 41 days, struck twice in each half to secure a 4-3 victory on the night for the Italian side and an 8-4 win on aggregate to seal their place in the quarter-finals.

He beats the previous record held by former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic, who was aged 32 years and 20 days when he scored four goals for Paris Saint-Germain against Anderlecht in October 2013.

The Spanish side’s stadium was shut to supporters as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, with the visitors coming from a high-risk zone in the north of Italy but that didn’t stop Ilicic.

Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby conceded two penalty kicks in the first half, both converted by Ilicic, either side of Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser.

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Gameiro headed home a second and Ferran Torres put Valencia ahead on the night.

But Slovenian playmaker Ilicic completed his hat-trick and then curled in a sumptuous fourth as his team reached the quarter-finals.

Ilicic, who is the first Slovenian to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, has now struck 14 goals in all competitions in 2020, more than any other player from Europe’s top five leagues.

Ilicic has now scored 21 in 29 appearances in all competitions this season.

He is the fourth player to score at least four goals in a Champions League knockout game after Lionel Messi, Mario Gomez, and Robert Lewandowski, though he is the first player to do so away from home.