Atalanta beat Empoli to boost Champions League hopes


Rasmus Hojlund of Atalanta BC celebrates with teammates Matteo Ruggeri (L) and Jose Luis Palomino (R) after scoring the team's second goal during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Empoli FC at Gewiss Stadium on March 17, 2023 in Bergamo, Italy.

Substitute Rasmus Winther Hojlund scored late to help Atalanta fight back to beat Empoli 2-1 in Serie A and boost their chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

Winther Hojlund scored the winner just seven minutes after coming off the bench. Marten de Roon had cancelled out Tyronne Ebuehi’s opener for Empoli.

The victory snapped Atalanta’s winless run and lifted them to within three points of fourth-placed AC Milan, who visit Udinese on Saturday.

Empoli remained nine points above the relegation zone.

Atalanta had lost three of their last four matches, drawing the other, and were losing ground in a tight race for the Champions League spots.

They dominated but Empoli took a surprise lead on the stroke of half-time.

Atalanta defender Matteo Ruggeri intercepted a cross for Ebuehi but his attempted clearance struck Empoli forward Francesco Caputo and rebounded back to Ebuehi, who tucked it in from point-blank range.

De Roon levelled in the 58th by heading in a cross from Ruggeri, notching Atalanta’s first goal in almost a month.

Atalanta snatched all three points when, four minutes from time, Mario Pasalic mishit a shot but the ball fell to Winther Hojlund who fired it home.

Sassuolo beat relegation-threatened Spezia 1-0 for a fourth straight victory.

Domenico Berardi converted a penalty in the 71st after handball by Spezia defender Kelvin Amian.

Berardi also hit the crossbar in the first half, while Sassuolo midfielder Abdou Harroui hit the right post late on as the home side had several chances to extend their lead.

Spezia, who surprisingly beat Inter Milan last week, remained five points above the drop zone.


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