Atalanta four-goal hero Ilicic: I'm getting better with age!

The 32-year-old feels he is improving with each passing year after a fantastic showing at Mestalla

Atalanta forward Josep Ilicic says he is getting better as he gets older after his four-goal haul helped his side to a 4-3 win over Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

The 32-year-old is having his finest goalscoring season to-date, managing 21 goals and nine assists in 29 appearances across all competitions this term so far.

He has already matched his assist tally from last season and scored eight more goals despite playing a total of seven fewer games, and Ilicic feels he is improving with each passing year.

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“The older I get, the better I play,” Ilicic said to Sky Sports Italia after the game. “I am having fun, I want to keep going and we are really enjoying our football.

“It’s a pity there are no fans here, but we have to entertain them and make those at home celebrate.”

 Atalanta arrived at the Mestalla with a 4-1 aggregate lead, and Ilicic netted two penalties in the first half before striking twice in the second to haul his side back from behind to win on the night and record an 8-4 aggregate victory.

“I just focus on what I am doing, not the defenders who are in front of me,” he continued. “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. 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.”

The Slovenian also believes that his side should not be viewed as underdogs any longer, and is proud of what the team have achieved so far.

“I said after the first leg that Atalanta are no longer a surprise,” Ilicic said. “We’ve been doing great things for a few years now and our objective is to prove we deserve to be here, that we want to get even stronger and enjoy every moment of it.

“We should enjoy it because it’s not easy to reach this level, but we built up to it over the years, it was no fluke.

“We aim to take on every opponent we come up against in the same way and that’s all we need. I got the goals today, but it’s more important for me to win with the team, as a player without a team can’t do anything. I hope Papu Gomez gets the Man of the Match trophy next time.”

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