Atalanta beats Roma 2-1 in Serie A fight for 4th

Lecce fans cheer during the Serie A soccer match between Lecce and Spal, at the Via del Mare Stadium in Lecce, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Donato Fasano/Lapresse via AP)

By DANIELLA MATAR

Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Substitute Mario Pašalić scored a stunning goal seconds after coming off the bench as Atalanta beat Roma 2-1 in Serie A on Saturday in a direct fight for a Champions League place.

Pašalić curled the winning goal into the top right corner in the 59th minute. It was his first touch, 19 seconds after replacing Duván Zapata.

“We planned it that way,” joked Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. “Pasalic’s goal so soon after coming on was a coincidence but we needed to change.

“Certainly we know we can get back into the Champions League (for a second straight year). It all depends on us but the gap to Roma isn’t conclusive. They are strong, but we nevertheless have the conviction that we can finish ahead.”

Atalanta consolidated fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying berth, extending its advantage over fifth-place Roma to six points.

“It’s not easy to play here, Atalanta is a very strong team and they create so many goalscoring opportunities,” Roma coach Paulo Fonseca said. “We had a couple of difficult moments but I can’t say anything negative about my team’s attitude.

“There are still 14 matches remaining (for Roma). And I believe it’s possible for us to get into the Champions League, it’s difficult but this season all the teams are losing many points.”

The visitors took the lead on the stroke of halftime. José Luis Palomino failed to control a back pass and Edin Džeko stole the ball and fired past Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.

Palomino atoned for his error five minutes after the break, tapping in at the far post after a corner was nodded on by Berat Djimsiti.

It was the 30-year-old defender’s first goal of the season and only the 10th of his career.

Lecce beat Spal 2-1 to boost its chances of avoiding relegation.

Bottom club Spal’s troubles deepened as it slipped eight points from safety.

It was Lecce's third straight win but it remained three points above the drop zone after Genoa won 3-0 at nine-man Bologna.

In Lecce, the home side took the lead at the end of the first half when it was awarded a penalty for Kevin Bonifazi’s trip on Žan Majer. Marco Mancosu successfully struck the ball into the top left corner.

Andrea Petagna headed in a corner two minutes after the break to equalize but Majer scored his first Serie A goal to restore Lecce’s lead for good in the 66th minute.

Antonio Sanabria scored a spectacular goal to help Genoa to its first away win of the season.

Sanabria scored Genoa’s second, just before halftime. The Paraguay forward started his run deep inside his own half and dribbled more than 70 meters before firing into the bottom left corner.

Adama Soumaoro had got the opener in the 28th.

Bologna played nearly an hour with 10 men after midfielder Jerdy Schouten was shown a straight red card for a studs-up tackle on Valon Behrami. The referee initially gave a yellow but changed his mind after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor.

The home side ended the match with nine men when defender Stefano Denswil was given a second yellow card for a foul on Stefano Sturaro a minute from time. Domenico Criscito converted the resulting penalty.

Genoa moved a point behind city rival Sampdoria, which occupies the last safety position and hosts Fiorentina on Sunday.

Bologna, which had won its previous three matches, remained seventh.

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Updated February 15, 2020

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