Roma blew the chance to close the seven point gap between themselves and Serie A leaders Juventus.
The Atalanta fairy tale continued courtesy of Franck Kessie’s last minute penalty securing the three points for the Bergamo club.
A mouth watering game was in store at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia with high flying Atalanta hosting Serie A title challengers AS Roma. The same fixture last season saw the sides draw 3-3 and both sides went into this game on the back of impressive unbeaten runs. Atalanta winning six of the last seven and Roma winning five of the last seven.
Atalanta coach Gasperini welcomed back Rafael Toloi to the side in the absence of the suspended Conti, joining Masiello and Caldara in a back three. Roma meanwhile also made one change with Spaletti bringing in Manolas for the injured Juan Jesus.
The early running in the game was made by the home side. Gomez had a sighter at goal straight at Szczesney and Kurtic struck a right footed effort from just outside the box, after cutting in from the left hand side, which sailed over the bar. Atalanta were moving the ball around quickly and playing with confidence.
It took until the 14th minute for Roma’s first attempt at goal when Salah’s corner was headed just over the bar by Fazio. It was a sign of things to come as Roma came back into the game, getting their foot on the ball a lot more but without cutting open the Atalanta defence.
Having celebrated his first call up to La Nazionale last week, Gagliardini showed nice feet to work his way past Manolas on the right hand side of the area but couldn’t quite catch his shot right as the ball fizzed just wide of the near post.
From the 25th minute on it was all Roma. First, Nainggolan played the ball wide to Perotti who did well to cut the ball to his right and cross in for Dzeko whose header fell just wide of the far post. Soon after Dzeko played a simple ball over the top through to Salah on the right hand side of the penalty area but his shot on the half volley was comfortably saved by Berisha, The Egypt International should have done better.
By the half hour mark Roma began to step the pace up. Nainggollan again flicking ball on with his right foot in behind the Atalanta back line to find another great run made by Salah but Berisha was quick off his line to save his toe poked effort and gather at the second attempt.
In the 38th minute the Giallorossi’s pressure finally paid off. Dzeko took another simple ball over the top onto his chest, back heeling it into the path of Salah inside the six yard box. Salah’s close range effort was blocked by the hand of Caldera and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and booking the centre back for his troubles. Perotti stepped up with a casual run up and calmly slotting the ball to the bottom right of the goal.
A Bizzarre incident happened following the goal which delayed the restart. De Rossi had to make his way over to the Roma fans and plead with them to to calm down after they let off smoke bombs in the Stadium. When the restart came Roma should have scored another just before half time. Salah was again put through by Nainggolan with another ball chipped over the top. He beat the offside trap but his side foot finish was poor and gathered easily by the on rushing Berisha. It was a great chance but Roma went into the break with just the 1-0 lead.
The second half started with no changes however, this did not last long as Gasperini took Masiello off and introduced the pacey D’Alessandro in the 49th minute. The change saw Zukanovic move into back three as well as a change in tactics as Atalanta began to press Roma higher up the pitch. However, Roma were beginning to find a lot more space available to them in the Atalanta half, only their final ball was letting them down.
It was Atalanta though who registered the first meaningful attempt at goal in the second half. A 58th minute Toloi header from the mercurial Gomez’s cross from the left forced Szczesney into full length save to his left. Soon after, a Spinazzola cross field pass from right wing found Gomez just outside the penalty area whose first touch took him inside for a left footed strike which sailed just wide of the near post.
Atalanta were certainly stepping up the pressure on Roma, forcing the Capital club into mistakes in the middle of the pitch. Spalletti looked to counter Gasperini’s change by bringing El Shaarawy on for Salah in the 58th minute and switching Peres and Rudiger over to each others flanks. Atalanta also brought on Freuler for Kurtic.
Unfortunately for Roma the changes did little to ease the pressure form the hosts as Atalanta drew level on the 61st minute. Kessie drove forward and got to the right byline where his cross was bundled home by Caldara of all people, who had stayed up from the previous free kick, via Szczesney’s desperate dive ricocheting the ball off of Manolas.
Soon after it was almost 2-1 to Atalanta. Gasperini’s men were certainly not holding back and sitting on what they had. Great work again from Gomez on the left found D’Alessandro whose diagonal low pass found Kessie free on the right hand side of the penalty area but the angle was too tight for a decent connection.
Relentless pressure from this young Atalanta side have two penalty claims in quick succession. First, Kessie looked to have been hauled to the ground but replays showed there was not enough contact from Fazio, it would have been very soft. The impressive Gagliardini then got in on blind side of De Rossi in the six yard area. Replays showed there was a touch from the Roma Captain but the Atalanta midfielder went down very easy. Spaletti brought on Paredes for Perotti in the 72nd minute as Roma were struggling to keep hold of the ball in the second half.
Atalanta kept on knocking at the Roma door and went even closer as Freuler’s deflected shot from the inside right position of the penalty area came back off of the post and into the greatful arms of Szczesney. Roma were being forced deeper and deeper and a desperate block from Fazio kept a close range shot from Gagliardini out.
But Atalanta finally knocked that door down when in the 89th minute, Parades was bamboozled by the brilliant Gomez, sticking out a leg and tripping the playmaker just inside the box. The ref had no hesitation pointing to the spot. The responsibility was left to the 19 year old Kessie who sent Szeczesney the wrong way and sent Atalanta up to joint third in the table with Lazio.
Atalanta: Berisha; Toloi, Masiello (D’alessandro) Caldera; Zukanovic, Spinazzola Gagliardini, Kessie; Kurtic (Freuler), Gomez, Petagma.
Roma: Szczesney; Manolas, Fazio, Rudiger, Bruno Peres; De Rossi, Strootman, Nainggolan (Iturbe); Salah (El Shaarawy) Perotti (Parades) Dzeko.