Atalanta Hold Sassuolo at the Mapei to Leapfrog into Second Place

With the Serie A campaign in its final stretch, both Sassuolo and Atalanta need points to fulfil their European aspirations. The Neroverdi are in earshot of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, while La Dea are eying Champions League qualification and a possible second-place finish. 

After scalping Juventus and holding AS Roma to a stalemate, Atalanta took on the challenge of Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo. The Neroverdi have dented AC Milan’s ambitions and wanted a tp exact a similar fate for the high-flying Atalanta. 

The visitors lost goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini in the 23rd minute but managed to take the lead nine minutes later. Sassuolo found solace in the second half and equalized through Domenico Berardi. The fight of attrition continued until the final minutes of the fixture, as Marlon’s departure for a second bookable offence evened out the numbers. 

The match lived up to its hype as both Atalanta and Sassuolo have remained true to their principles despite varying success. It was the visitors who had bragging rights in the initial exchanges with Ruslan Malinovsky coming close. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men built on this but soon found themselves at a disadvantage. 

Pierluigi Gollini tripped Jeremie Boga with an awful challenge. It left Luca Pairetto with no choice but to give the goalkeeper his marching orders. With VAR supporting Pairetto’s decision, Gasperini brought on Marco Sportiello in place of Matteo Pessina. 

Sportiello was soon in the midst of the action. Giorgos Kyriakopoulos was through on goal but his fierce shot was denied by the substitute goalkeepers dive towards the right post. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Atalanta continued to harass Sassuolo’s defence. 

Their relentlessness paid dividends in the 32nd minute, as Malinovsky found Robin Gosens in the box. The German calmly found the bottom right corner to give his side the lead. They should have doubled their lead in the 43rd minute but Duvan Zapata was goal ruled offside in the buildup. 

Heading into the break, De Zerbi had a tough task on his hands. The hosts had found it difficult to use their numerical advantage to good use with Atalanta piling on the pressure with better opportunities. 

Whatever De Zerbi said in his half-time talk worked as Sassuolo got on the scoreboard within the first seven minutes. Rafael Toloi pushed Hamed Traore inside the box, conceding a penalty in the process. Berardi approached the spot and sent it low into the right of the net, leaving Sportiello with no chance to stop it. 

The match opened up after the goal as both sides eyed the three points on offer. Hans Hateboer exhibited brilliant solo skills as he zig-zagged into the Sassuolo box. His shot was destined to the roof of the goal but Andrea Consigli was alert to deny him. At the other end of the pitch, Sportiello was again brought to action. Manuel Locatelli hit the back of the net but VAR intervene and ruled against it for offside. 

There was more drama in the last quarter of the fixture. Marlon brought down Luis Muriel. The referee gave the Brazilian defender his marching orders and Atalanta a penalty. The Colombian had the responsibility to convert from the spot but failed in his endeavor as Consigli stood in his way to block it. 

Both sides continued to try their luck in the remaining minutes but to no avail. Pairetto would soon blow for full time with both sides content with their efforts and the result. Atalanta have second-place and they are the masters of their own destiny. Meanwhile, De Zerbi and Sassuolo will have to hustle in the final weeks to ensure Europa League participation. 

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