Atalanta push for top 4 falters with surprise loss to Lecce

Atalanta push for top 4 falters with surprise loss to Lecce
AS Roma's Norwegian forward Ola Solbakken (R) shoots to open the scoring during their Italian Serie A football match against Hellas Verona on Sunday at the Olympic stadium in Rome. (AFP)
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Updated 20 February 2023

Atalanta push for top 4 falters with surprise loss to Lecce

Atalanta push for top 4 falters with surprise loss to Lecce
  • Roma beat relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 1-0 to move above fourth-place AC Milan on goal difference

MILAN: Atalanta’s push for the top four in Serie A was dented on Sunday by a surprise 2-1 loss at home to Lecce as the race for the Champions League qualifying places intensified.

Assan Ceesay and Alexis Blin netted in each half for Lecce, who moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone with the win. Rasmus Hojlund pulled one back for Atalanta three minutes from time.

Atalanta slipped to sixth after Roma beat relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 1-0 and Lazio won 2-0 at struggling Salernitana.

Roma moved above fourth-place AC Milan on goal difference. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker at the end of the season. Lazio was two points outside the top four, with Atalanta a point further back.

Atalanta had been hoping to move level with Milan, ahead of their match next week.

But it got off to the worst possible start as Ceesay drove a low shot into the bottom left corner from more than 30 yards out to give Lecce the lead in the fourth minute.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini was furious with his players in the first half but the home team improved after the break.

Ademola Lookman thought he had leveled almost immediately after the restart but it was ruled out for offside.

Instead, Lecce doubled their lead in the 74th minute when a corner was taken short and the ball whipped in by Gabriel Strefezza for a completely unmarked Blin to head home.

Lecce gifted Atalanta a way back into the match when goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone hesitated on a clearance allowing Højlund to close and deflect the ball into the net.

That set up a nervy finale but Falcone atoned for his error by pushing Luis Muriel’s ferocious strike over the bar in stoppage time.

Ciro Immobile appears to be returning to form just in time for Lazio.

Immobile scored two goals in nine second-half minutes to spoil Paulo Sousa’s first match in charge of Salernitana.

They were Immobile’s first Serie A goals in more than a month and halted Lazio’s three-match winless run. He had scored in the Europa Conference League win over Cluj midweek.

Lazio broke the deadlock on the hour mark as Adam Marušić romped down the right flank and put in a low cross for Immobile to tap in at the back post.

Immobile won and converted a penalty nine minutes later after being clattered into by Salernitana goalkeeper Luigi Sepe.

Luis Alberto had another penalty saved by Sepe in the final minute.

Salernitana defender Dylan Bronn had given away that penalty and he was booked for dissent but then immediately shown a red card as he continued to protest.

Salernitana remained four points above the drop zone.

Ola Solbakken scored his first goal for Roma on his first start for the team

Solbakken, who joined from Bodo/Glimt, netted on the stroke of halftime after Leonardo Spinazzola backheeled the ball to him to complete a lovely and quick passing move.

Defender Rick Karsdorp made his first appearance for Roma since falling out with coach Jose Mourinho three months ago.

It was only Verona’s second defeat in its past eight matches and left them two points behind 17th-place Spezia and safety.

Juventus moved into the final European qualifying spot with a 2-0 win at Spezia.

Clinical finishes from Moise Kean and Angel Di Maria in each half handed Juventus its third straight league win without conceding a goal.

Also, Fiorentina snatched a 1-1 draw at home to Empoli.