Atalanta continue Champions League bid with Monza win


Charles De Ketelaere of Atalanta scores goal during the Serie A TIM match between AC Monza and Atalanta BC at U-Power Stadium on April 21, 2024 in Monza, Italy. 

Atalanta kept up their bid for Champions League football with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Monza on Sunday, fresh from knocking Liverpool out of Europe.

Charles De Ketelaere’s header just before half-time and a beautifully taken finish from El Bilal Toure in the 72nd minute moved Atalanta to within one point of fifth-placed Roma, who host fellow Champions League-chasers Bologna on Monday evening.

A top-five finish in Serie A guarantees a spot in next season’s Champions League thanks to Italian clubs’ strong performances in continental competition.

Atalanta reached the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday in one of the biggest nights in the club’s history, and played with confidence at the U-Power Stadium despite Gian Piero Gasperini making a clutch of changes from the team that eliminated Liverpool.

On Wednesday Atalanta try to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their Italian Cup semi-final with Fiorentina, who won 2-0 at rock-bottom Salernitana earlier in the day.

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“We have to keep improving,” said Gasperini to DAZN.

“We’ve had some fantastic results this season but in terms of play and development we have plenty of room for improvement.”

Neither of Sunday’s goalscorers started midweek, with Toure netting his second goal of the season in his first start since signing for Atalanta in July.

Mali forward Toure became Atalanta’s record signing when he was bought for 30 million euros plus add-ons from Almeria.

But he has been restricted to substitute appearances after suffering a serious knee injury in August, only returning to action in February.

However mid-table Monza nearly snatched a point at the last as Daniele Maldini netted an impressive long-range effort in the 89th minute before seeing a similar effort deep in stoppage time hit the inside of the post, roll agonisingly across the goalline and out of play.

“Evidently we’ve not learned anything. It’s happened in other matches this season and we’ve lost points,” added Gasperini, whose team dropped two points last weekend against Verona after going two goals ahead.

Lecce took a huge leap towards safety from relegation with a thumping 3-0 win at Sassuolo who are at risk of losing their 11-year tenure as a top-flight club.

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Lecce are 13th, seven points above the bottom three after a second straight win against direct rivals for the drop which came through early goals from Valentin Gendrey and Patrick Dorgu and Roberto Piccoli’s 61st-minute strike.

On Monday night Inter Milan will try to win their 20th Serie A title by beating local rivals AC Milan in a hotly-anticipated local derby. 

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