Atalanta: The soccer team with the most shots in a game didn’t even win

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From time to time, soccer produces some truly lopsided games. Southampton, for instance, have somehow contrived to lose 9-0 twice in three Premier League seasons. In those games, against first Leicester City then Manchester United, the Saints conceded 25 and 24 shots. This is a lot of shots — even the best teams don’t average more than 15 or 16 per match. But is 25 anything close to the most recorded by a team in a domestic match?

Turns out no. Shots have been compiled across European football since the 2006/07 season, and 25 is nowhere near the record, which belongs to Serie A side Atalanta. In April 2019, the hipster darlings played against relegation-threatened Empoli and battered the absolute hell out of them, recording 47(!!) shots against the visitors’ three.

How many did they score? Given that Atalanta’s shot total almost matched two of the top-scoring top-flight games of all time combined, we’re surely looking at double digits, right? Er … not so much, no: the match finished 0-0.

0-0 games tend to be dull affairs. Manchester United, for instance, have just completed their third straight 0-0 draw, and the one against Chelsea was so boring that their manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, took the unusual step of blaming the opposing team’s website for his team’s failure to score a goal just to distract everyone from the shitshow he’d just presided over.

This 0-0 draw, however, was not boring in the least.

Empoli actually had the first shot of the game, a low effort from Diego Farias which was well saved by Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini. They had another four minutes later, when Rade Krunić had a shot blocked from range. After that, starting with a close-range header which Hans Hateboer somehow missed, the hosts took 35 shots without reply. Zero went in.

This was not just due to poor finishing on Atalanta’s part. After all, they managed 17 shots on target, and you’d expect at least a few of those to go in. Empoli’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Bartłomiej Drągowski, however, was up to the task, recording 17 saves in a man-of-the-match performance, at one point racking up five of them in an eight-minute spell.

Some of the runs Atalanta produced here were absolutely marvelous. Between minutes 22 and 32, they managed to record nine shots by seven different players. In four minutes of stoppage time alone, they took seven shots. In the second half, they outshot Empoli THIRTY-ONE TO ONE.

It’s important to note here that you actually expect more shots at 0-0 with a team chasing victory than you might if they had a comfortable lead. At 4 or 5-0 up, the only reason to score more is to stunt on your opponents, and while that’s a great deal of fun, it’s not something teams will waste a tonne of energy on for a whole match. With Atalanta desperate for a win, every missed shot bred more shots, which were then missed as well.

Given the raw totals — a shot every 108 seconds(?!) and a shot on target every five minutes — this has to be one of the most fascinating, and certainly the most frenetic 0-0 games of all time. While the highlights don’t quite communicate just how ludicrous this game was (for that you want a shot map), they’re still worth checking out just to see what a 47-shot game with no goals looks like:

Wait, no, that’s not right. Try this one instead:

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