Atalanta close in on Champions League, Bologna and Juve qualify

football12 May 2024 20:50| © AFP

Atalanta took a big step towards Champions League football on Sunday by beating Serie A top-five rivals Roma 2-1, a win which also guaranteed spots for Bologna and Juventus.

A brilliant brace from Charles De Ketelaere in the first 20 minutes gave Atalanta, still on a high from reaching the Europa League final, a fully deserved win in Bergamo.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side sit in Italy's fifth and final Champions League spot, three points ahead of Roma with a game in hand against Fiorentina which they will play the weekend after the scheduled end of the season.

Atalanta, who also face Juventus in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday, looked set to sweep Roma aside in the same manner in which they dealt with Marseille on Thursday to reach their first ever European final.

But they had to overcome a tense finale after Lorenzo Pellegrini's 66th-minute penalty gave the away side hope.

Defeat for Roma followed up their heartbreaking last-four elimination from the Europa League at Bayer Leverkusen.

Daniele De Rossi's team, who were missing injured talisman Paulo Dybala, have little chance of finishing fifth but can still reach the continent's top club competition even if they finish sixth, if Atalanta win the Europa League.

Thanks to Atalanta's win Bologna will make their first appearance in the modern Champions League as they and Juve, who could only draw with relegated Salernitana, are seven points ahead of Roma with two rounds of fixtures remaining.

Third-placed Bologna played one match in the old European Cup in 1964, the same year they won the last of their seven league titles, and effectively sealed their place with a 2-0 win at Napoli on Saturday.

Juve will be delighted with Atalanta's win as they were crawling over the line with five straight league draws, the latest of which came thanks to a stoppage-time leveller from Adrien Rabiot.

Since the start of February, Juve, in fourth, have won just three times in all competitions.


A point behind Roma are local rivals Lazio following their 2-0 win over Empoli in the day's early match, when the capital city club celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first league title.

Lazio have won the Scudetto twice, in 1974 and 2000, and the first title winners are both beloved by fans and notorious in Italy for their outlaw behaviour.

The '74 vintage was led by deceased bad boy striker Giorgio Chinaglia, who later played with Pele and Franz Beckenbauer for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.

As well as Chinaglia, the team also contained Luciano Re Cecconi, known as The Blond Angel, who in 1977 was shot dead in a Rome jewellers after what is claimed to have been a prank gone wrong.

In 1980, the team's captain Pino Wilson was caught up in a match-fixing scandal known as "Totonero" – a play on the Italian for football pools – which ended with Lazio and AC Milan being relegated.

Wilson, who died in 2022, was banned for three years while teammates Massimo Cacciatori, Bruno Giordano and Lionello Manfredonia were also hit with significant bans for their roles in the scandal, and decided to retire.

The remaining members of the team lined up on the pitch and basked in the warm applause and Roman sunshine as Lazio easily got past Empoli thanks to late goals in each half from Patric and Matis Vecino.

Empoli are two points above the relegation zone and will drop into the bottom three if 18th-placed Udinese win at Lecce on Monday.