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Atalanta close in on Champions League

AFP . Paris
13 May 2024 14:07:22 | Update: 13 May 2024 14:07:22
Atalanta close in on Champions League
— Courtesy Photo

Atalanta took a big step towards Champions League football on Sunday by beating Serie A top-five rivals Roma 2-1, a win which also guaranteed spots for Bologna and Juventus in Europe’s elite club event.

A brilliant brace from Charles De Ketelaere in the first 20 minutes gave Atalanta, still on a high from reaching the Europa League final, a fully deserved win in Bergamo, reports First Post.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side sit in Italy’s fifth and final Champions League spot, three points ahead of Roma with a game in hand against Fiorentina which they will play the weekend after the scheduled end of the season.

Atalanta, who also faces Juventus in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday, looked set to sweep Roma aside in the same manner in which they dealt with Marseille on Thursday to reach their first-ever European final.

But they had to overcome a tense finale after Lorenzo Pellegrini’s 66th-minute penalty gave the away side hope, despite a dominating display from the hosts who also hit the post twice.

“We weren’t clinical enough in front of goal, otherwise we would have won it sooner without having to suffer so much at the end,” said Gasperini to DAZN.

Defeat for Roma followed up their heartbreaking last-four elimination from the Europa League at Bayer Leverkusen.

Daniele De Rossi’s team, who were missing injured talisman, Paulo Dybala, have little chance of finishing fifth but can still reach the continent’s top club competition even if they finish sixth if Atalanta wins the Europa League.

Thanks to Atalanta’s win Bologna will make their first appearance in the modern Champions League as they and Juve, who could only draw with relegated Salernitana, are seven points ahead of Roma with two rounds of fixtures remaining.

Third-placed Bologna hailed their qualification with a simple “Bologna, we did it” on social media.

Bologna played one match in the old European Cup in 1964, the same year they won the last of their seven league titles, and effectively sealed their place with a 2-0 win at Napoli on Saturday.