Serie A roundup: Atalanta and Juventus pick up narrow wins to boost top-four chances

Serie A roundup: Atalanta and Juventus pick up narrow wins to boost top-four chances
Atalanta fought hard to move into the top four
Atalanta fought hard to move into the top four
Atalanta and Juventus boosted their chances of finishing inside the top four with narrow wins over Spezia and Lecce, while Fiorentina and Salernitana played out a thrilling draw and Torino cruised past Sampdoria.

Atalanta 3 Spezia 2

Atalanta moved into the Serie A top four with a captivating 3-2 victory over Spezia at the Gewiss Stadium. The visitors have now won just once in 15 league outings and remain in trouble at the wrong end of the table.

Back-to-back wins, including a 3-1 victory over fellow Champions League chasers Roma, had rejuvenated Atalanta’s bid for a top-four spot, and manager Gian Piero Gasperini was eager to stress the importance of this match. Early on, though, the hosts rarely threatened and even fell behind to their relegation-battling guests.

Spezia came into the game level on points with Hellas Verona in 18th place and were only out of the drop zone thanks to their superior head-to-head record against them, making Emmanuel Gyasi’s 18th-minute goal particularly crucial. It was well-taken, too, with the forward firing a first-time effort past Juan Musso following Simone Bastoni’s through ball.

La Dea’s most dangerous moments came from corners, with Duvan Zapata nodding wide before Rafael Toloi’s header was saved by visiting goalkeeper Bartłomiej Dragowski. And Atalanta’s equaliser ultimately came via a set-piece, although in unusual and spectacular fashion.

With around half an hour gone, Marten De Roon dispatched a marvellous volley into the bottom corner from 25 yards after Spezia could only half-clear Teun Koopmeiners’ inswinger.

In all honesty, Spezia had created nothing besides their goal before the interval, and they were no match for an inspired Atalanta at the start of the second period.

Within two minutes of the restart, the Bergamo-based outfit were in front as Davide Zappacosta buried a fierce drive from just outside the area, albeit via a Kelvin Amian deflection, after Spezia had again failed to clear their lines from a corner. The home team’s third goal, a clinical close-range shot from Muriel, was also preceded by a corner that Leonardo Simplici’s men just could not deal with.

It seemed Atalanta would canter to the three points at that point, but things wouldn't prove to be as comfortable for the home side as they would have liked.

Spezia halved the deficit courtesy of Mehdi Bourabia’s well-taken flick with just over 60 minutes on the clock, setting up a tense end to the game. 

They almost completed an unlikely comeback when Daniele Verde hit the crossbar from distance, but Atalanta held on to clinch the three points. They now sit fourth and will turn their attention to Juventus’ visit this weekend. Spezia, meanwhile, need a quick improvement in form if they are to extend their top-flight stay beyond this campaign.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Duvan Zapata (Atalanta BC)

See all the match stats here.

Juventus 2 Lecce 1

Juve are up to second

Champions League-chasing Juventus secured a much-needed 2-1 victory over Lecce, thanks to first-half goals from Leandro Paredes and Dusan Vlahovic, taking them to second in Serie A. The hosts have now lost only once in their last 11 league games at the Allianz Stadium.

Juventus were aiming to end a five-game winless streak against a troubled Lecce side, who were fighting for their lives and sitting only four points above the drop zone.

Fresh from their first win in nine games, the underdogs started confidently and had the ball in the back of the net inside two minutes via Assan Ceesay, but much to the relief of Juve, it was quickly ruled out for offside.

This was certainly a wake-up call for the Old Lady, and they reacted impeccably, taking the lead through a superb Paredes free-kick that found the bottom corner for his maiden Bianconeri goal.

Now firmly on top, Juventus came but a linesman’s flag away from doubling their advantage, when Nicolo Fagioli's dinked ball found Fabio Miretti at the back post, allowing the 19-year-old to poke in for what he thought was his first goal for the club. Heartbreakingly for the youngster, it was ruled out for offside.

Lecce were then handed a golden opportunity to level the scoreline when Danilo was judged to have handled the ball in his own area. In turn, Ceesay stepped up and scored the visitors’ first away league goal in over 400 minutes to make it 1-1.

It didn’t take long for Juventus to take the lead once again though, as Filip Kostic picked out his compatriot Vlahovic, who produced a wonderful first-time strike into the bottom corner for his first league goal in over three months.

That set the tone for Juventus to dominate the early stages of the second half, and they should have extended their lead even further when Danilo put the ball on a plate for Miretti but this time he somehow put his effort wide from five yards out.

Danilo then came inches away from making amends for his first-half handball, rising highest at a corner and crashing a thumping header against the post.

As for the visitors, their attempts to avoid a fifth successive away Serie A defeat for the first time since 2010 became increasingly desperate. As such, they could only create one clear chance for a second equaliser through Ceesay, but the Gambian forward could only head straight at a relieved Wojciech Szczesny.

The 2-1 loss leaves Lecce four points ahead of 18th-placed Verona who have played a game less, while Juventus leapfrog Lazio into second.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Leandro Paredes (Juventus)

See all the match stats here.

Salernitana 3 Fiorentina 3

Dia was on fire

Despite becoming Salernitana's top goalscorer in a single Serie A season after netting a hat-trick, it was Boulaye Dia who got the final touch late on after Cristiano Biraghi’s free-kick to gift Fiorentina a point in a frantic 3-3 draw.

Entering the game on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run in the league, Salernitana didn’t look in the mood to see an end to that record, finding the back of the net as early as the 10th-minute against an out-of-form Fiorentina side.

Just like against champions-elect Napoli last time out, it was Dia who found room in behind, before checking back onto his right foot and slotting into the bottom left-hand corner. In netting his 13th goal of the league campaign, Dia became the Garnets’ top goalscorer in a single season, beating a record set by Marco Di Vaio in 1998/99.

The hosts remained comfortable after finding the opening goal but failed to really take advantage of that. This offered Fiorentina a glimmer of hope and soon resulted in an equaliser against the run of play.

Dodo’s inch-perfect cross was met by the on-rushing Nicolas Gonzalez who headed home with 36 minutes played.

In a game without an initial flurry of entertainment, it was always going to be record-breaker Dia who sparked things into life.

In almost identical fashion to the first half, the in-form forward broke in behind Fiorentina's failed offside trap, before cutting inside and finishing past Pietro Terracciano and into the bottom left-hand corner to give his side the lead just before the hour mark.

Following suit in mirroring the first period, however, La Viola mounted a response once more. Perfectly placed to pick the ball up in behind, Jonathan Ikone rounded Guillermo Ochoa at the far post and found the back of the empty net with ease in the 71st minute to level the scores up at two apiece.

Dia wasn’t to be outshone on his historic day, though, and completed his hat-trick from the spot after Pasquale Mazzocchi was tripped by an on-rushing Terracciano in the 80th-minute.

Alas, the striker quite literally could not stop scoring, and even found the back of his own net, when he got the final touch on the end of Cristiano Biraghi’s drilled free-kick in the 84th minute to make it 3-3.

A point apiece, Fiorentina have moved up to eighth, leaving Salernitana a solid eight points clear of the dropzone in Serie A.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Boulaye Dia (Salernitana)

See all the match stats here.

Sampdoria 0 Torino 2

Torino completed back-to-back Serie A doubles over Sampdoria with a 2-0 victory at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris that all but condemned the Blucerchiati to relegation.

Sampdoria’s survival hopes already looked increasingly bleak prior to kick-off with the side starting the matchday ten points adrift of safety and with just one win in their last 16 league outings (D5, L10).

The balance of play in the opening stages reflected the sorry state of the hosts’ season, with Torino dominating possession and the overall flow, albeit while struggling to test Nicola Ravaglia between the Samp sticks on a regular basis.

However, the visitors broke the deadlock 30 minutes in, when Ivan Ilic’s cross to the near post was flicked past Ravaglia by Alessandro Buongiorno’s head.

From that point onwards, Il Toro really started to put their opponents under significant pressure, and Ravaglia was called into action to deny Nikola Vlasic’s volley, which was headed towards the bottom corner.

The second half started much like the first, but this time, the home side grew into the game as it progressed. However, it was apparent where Sampdoria’s weaknesses lie as, having netted a league-low 20 league this campaign, they struggled to create any real chances in their attempts to trouble Torino goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic.

In fact, despite Sampdoria’s increased possession, the home side were able to carve out the better opportunities, and Dejan Stankovic’s men were let off in the 80th minute when Aleksey Miranchuk curled an effort narrowly over the bar when trying to find the top corner.

Ultimately, Pietro Pellegri secured all three points and Torino’s return to the top half of the table in injury time, slotting home after a well-worked team move.

The game’s losers, who had Bruno Amione sent off shortly before the final whistle despite not being on the pitch, continue to prop up the table and are staring a first relegation to the second tier since 2011 in the face.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Ivan Ilic (Torino)

See all the match stats here.


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