AAP Soccer

Atalanta keep Champions League hopes alive

By AAP Newswire

Atalanta beat visiting Napoli 2-0 in Serie A on Thursday to maintain their stranglehold on the fourth and last available Champions League spot.

The win leaves the Black and Blues 12 points clear of fifth-placed Roma, who lost 2-0 at home to lowly Udinese.

The Bergamo side have won all of their four outings since the league restarted after the coronavirus lockdown, plus three before the early March suspension, and boast the best attack on 82 goals from 29 games.

Napoli stayed sixth, three points behind Roma, and fill the second Europa League place; their qualification for the event is assured through the domestic cup success against Juventus last month.

After a slow first half, Napoli paid dearly for a couple of defence uncertainties as the unmarked Mario Pasalic scored in the 47th minute before Robin Gosens fired into the far corner nine minutes later.

"I am very happy. This season any ball I touch in the box gets in goal," said Gosens, a German full back with nine league goals to his name.

"But this win was very important and I am happy to have given my contribution. Seven straight wins is a good signal and it means that we worked very well despite this very bad (coronavirus) period."

Home goalkeeper David Ospina suffered a cut eyebrow in a clash and exited on the half hour.

At Rome's Stadio Olimpico, the host's static defence was in trouble when Kevin Lasagna crossed for Rodrigo De Paul and volleyed in the teammate's botched shot.

As Udinese kept pressing Lasagna had a taut drive saved, and things worsened on 29 for the Giallorossi as their captain Diego Perotti was red-carded for stomping on the leg of Rodrigo Becao.

The Romans came close on 34 with Bryan Cristante's drive deflected by a defender onto the bar, but in the 78th minute Ilija Nestorovski flicked in a swift counter-attack.

The Udine side are now six points clear of the three-team drop zone with nine games remaining.