Sandro Ramirez netted his first Everton goal but it was another disappointing Europa League defeat at Goodison on Thursday evening.
Everton knew progression to the knockout stages was already out of reach - and they were consigned to a 5-1 loss following goals in each half from Bryan Cristante and three late strikes.
Sandro had halved the Italians’ 2-0 lead with a precise finish with 19 minutes remaining, but two efforts from Andreas Cornelius and one from Robin Gosens in the dying minutes meant Everton tasted defeat for the fourth time in this year’s group stage.
Joel Robles produced a handful of fine saves, most notably to thwart Alejandro Gomez from the penalty spot when the score was 1-0.
There was also an Everton debut for 18-year-old defender Morgan Feeney who was given his first competitive action for the Club from the bench midway through the second half.
David Unsworth, sitting in the dugout for the sixth time since taking temporary charge, took the opportunity to play a number of players who had been on the fringes of the team in recent weeks.
Nine changes were made from the side that started against Crystal Palace five days previously, with Sandro, Kevin Mirallas, Cuco Martina and Davy Klaassen all coming back into the side - and it was the latter who had the game’s first attempt after a couple of minutes, a snap-shot from outside the area which was fractionally off-target.
However, it was the visitors from Bergamo who struck the first blow with their first meaningful attack of the evening. Timothy Castagne escaped down the right wing, continued his foray into the penalty area and, from his cutback, Cristante prodded into the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street net. It was the Italian international’s second goal against Everton this season, having completed the scoring in the 3-0 reverse in the corresponding fixture back in September.
Joel was playing his first match of the season for the Toffees. His first contribution was to make a low save from captain Alejandro Gomez’s free-kick as Atalanta pressed for second shortly after the deadlock had been broken.
Sandro then spurned a glorious chance to equalise on the half-hour mark. Mirallas barrelled his way into the area and was denied by goalkeeper Etrit Berisha from a tight angle but, as the rebound fell the Spaniard’s way, he sliced over from 12 yards out.
Everton offered more in attack as the first half progressed and Atalanta’s travelling support of over 3,000 fans were grateful for the brave contribution of Rafael Toloi to ensure their team held the advantage at the interval. Davies, following Cuco Martina’s left-flanked centre, took and touch and sent the ball towards the top corner, only to see the defender stick his head in the way on the goal line and clear it to safety.
And on the stroke of half-time, Mirallas’ low volley was clutched well Berisha. On chances created, the Toffees could consider themselves unlucky to be trailing at the break.
A brilliant double save from Joel - the first to thwart Gomez from the spot - kept Everton in the contest shortly after the restart.
Ashley Williams had been adjudged to have felled Cristante in the area - but Gomez’s powerful low penalty was beaten out by the Everton custodian. The Spaniard’s second save, from the rebound, was arguably even better as he quickly regained his feet and threw his body in front of the same player’s follow-up attempt.
Joel was a busy man at the start of the second half, producing some top-drawer saves to deny Gomez again and then Hans Hateboer who had barged Michael Keane out of the way on his route forward. He also had to be vigilant to palm away a header from Williams, inadvertently directed towards his own goal.
Seconds after Nikola Vlasic had been introduced, the lively Cristante nipped in to nod Atalanta into a two-goal lead. A corner was delivered from the left and the defender escaped at the near-post to score his second of the game.
Feeney, the teenager from Bootle, made his introduction from the bench with 20 minutes remaining - and Sandro gave Everton hope in the next attack with his deficit-reducing angular finish.
Wayne Rooney and Mirallas had combined before Sandro rounded off a classy move by hitting a low, skidding shot across Berisha and inside the near post.
Keane then went close to levelling proceedings when, from Rooney’s cross, his header looped over the goalkeeper and bounced on to the goal line. A goalmouth scramble ensued - but the referee had already whistled to call play back for a foul by Keane.
Atalanta then struck three times in in the final four minutes, with substitute Gosens netting the Serie A outfit’s third of the evening with a sublime left footed half volley following a half-cleared corner, then Cornelius registered on the scoresheet with a low shot and header in the closing seconds.
Next up for the Toffees is a return to Premier League action and a trip to Southampton on Sunday.