Atalanta nears Champions League with win over Lazio
Adding another chapter to a fairytale-like season , Atalanta solidified its hold on fourth place — the last Champions League spot — moved within one point of third-place Inter Milan and practically eliminated Lazio from contending for a top-four finish.
“We’ve achieved something extraordinary today,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said.
Already this season, Atalanta had eliminated four-time defending champion Juventus from the Italian Cup with an authoritative 3-0 win and produced a comeback victory at Napoli in Serie A — becoming the only Italian team besides Juventus to win at the San Paolo stadium.
Atalanta again had to come from behind after Marco Parolo gave Lazio an early advantage after seizing upon a loose ball.
Midway through the first half, Duvan Zapata equalized with his 22nd goal of the season — moving within two goals of Atalanta’s season record set by Filippo Inzaghi in 1996-97.
Lazio is seven points behind Atalanta with three rounds remaining.
“I think it’s over for us and the Champions League,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said.
Atalanta and Lazio meet again in the cup final on May 15.
Atalanta’s Champions League dream was further boosted after fifth-place Roma was held 1-1 at Genoa after a dramatic finale.
Stephan El Shaarawy’s 82nd-minute goal looked to have given Roma victory but Cristian Romero headed in a corner in stoppage time.
It could have been even worse for Roma as goalkeeper Antonio Mirante then conceded a penalty by bringing down Genoa forward Antonio Sanabria. But Mirante made up for his error by saving Sanabria’s spot-kick.
Roma is three points behind Atalanta.
Napoli mathematically secured second place in Serie A after a stoppage-time penalty from Lorenzo Insigne saw it come from behind to win 2-1 against Cagliari.
Earlier, Frosinone was relegated following a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo.
Also, Fabio Quagliarella scored a brace as Sampdoria drew 3-3 at Parma, giving him a league-best 25 goals; and relegation-threatened Empoli beat Fiorentina 1-0 in a Tuscan derby with a second-half header from Diego Farias.