Atalanta stun winter Serie A champions AC Milan

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Atalanta consigned AC Milan to their second league defeat of the season with a 3-0 win at San Siro yesterday, but Stefano Pioli’s side were still named ‘winter champions’ in Serie A. A Cristian Romero header put the visitors ahead at halftime before a Josip Ilicic penalty and Duvan Zapata strike completed a dominant victory for the Bergamo side.

Atalanta?s Cristian Romero (C) jubilates with his teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Atalanta BC at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy, 23 January 2021. EPA-EFE/MATTEO BAZZI

Atalanta had the chances to win by an even wider margin as an out-of-sorts Milan put in one of their worst performances of the season. The home side failed to muster a shot on target until debutant Mario Mandzukic drew a good save from Pierluigi Gollini in the 71st minute with his first touch after coming off the bench.

Milan nevertheless claim the title of winter champions as they top the standings at the halfway point of the season with 43 points, two ahead of Inter Milan after their 0-0 draw at Udinese. Atalanta moved into the top four on 36 points, returning to form in style after back-to-back draws against Genoa and Udinese.

Udinese’s Roberto Pereyra (L) and Inter?s Marcelo Brozovic in action during the Italian Serie A soccer match Udinese Calcio vs FC Inter at the Friuli – Dacia Arena stadium in Udine, Italy, 23 January 2021. EPA-EFE/GABRIELE MENIS

Meanwhile, Inter Milan missed out on the chance to go top as coach Antonio Conte was sent off in a 0-0 draw at strugglers Udinese. The visitors travelled to Udine on a high after beating title rivals Juventus 2-0 last weekend but they couldn’t break down the determined hosts, who became the first team to keep a clean sheet against Inter in Serie A this season.
Inter striker Lautaro Martinez came closest when his first half shot drew a spectacular one-handed save from Juan Musso, but the visitors’ frustration showed when Conte was dismissed for dissent in stoppage time.

Earlier, Lorenzo Pellegrini scored a last-gasp winner as Roma bounced back from their Italian Cup defeat by Spezia with a 4-3 win over the promoted side to move third. Pellegrini blasted home in injury time, minutes after Daniele Verde had pulled Spezia level, with relieved Roma coach Paulo Fonseca racing to hug the midfielder. “The hug was a team moment that shows that we are all together,” said Fonseca. “We showed great spirit. It was a game which was essential for us to win.”

Roma players celebrate their fourth goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Spezia Calcio at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy, 23 January 2021. EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI

The capital side have been in turmoil since their chaotic 4-2 extra-time loss to Spezia on Tuesday. The official scoreline was changed to 3-0 on Friday, as Roma made six substitutions, with just five allowed, during the last-16 clash which they finished with nine men.

Captain Edin Dzeko was left out of the team on Saturday, officially because of a muscular injury, but amid reports of a fall-out with Fonseca. Borja Mayoral scored a double for the hosts, netting the first after quarter of an hour, only for Roberto Piccoli to pull 14th-placed Spezia level seven minutes later by pouncing on a mistake by home goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Real Madrid loanee Mayoral slotted home his second on 52 minutes, before Rick Karsdorp tapped in to make it 3-1 three minutes later. Diego Farias again responded for the visitors just before the hour, scoring the third goal of a dramatic six-minute spell at the Stadio Olimpico. An error from Chris Smalling allowed former Roma winger Verde to equalise in the 90th minute, firing home left-footed after the England defender missed his attempted clearance. Pellegrini had the final say, though, drilling the ball into the roof of the net from close range after Bruno Peres’ unselfish cutback.

It was a first league win in three games for Roma, after last week’s defeat by Lazio in the Rome derby and a draw with title rivals Inter Milan. Roma move ahead of Napoli into third, six points behind leaders AC Milan

Feature Photo – AC Milan?s Franck Kessie (L) challenges for the ball Atalanta?s Remo Freuler during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Atalanta BC at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy, 23 January 2021. EPA-EFE/MATTEO BAZZI

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