Serie A Match of the Round – Atalanta vs Roma


Chievo-Fiorentina was a little more bonkers, but Roma-Atalanta had a higher profile, so it is the pick for match of the week. Both teams came into the game in positive stretches, having won four times in the previous six fixtures, with just one loss, and firmly in the running for the fourth spot.

Gian Piero Gasperini confirmed last week’s XI featuring Berat Djimsiti and Timothy Castagne over usual starter José-Luis Palomino and Robin Gosens. With Cengiz Under injured and Alessandro Florenzi banged up, Eusebio Di Francesco moved Nicolò Zaniolo to the right flank, with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the hole and Ivan Marcano replacing Federico Fazio, who was under the weather.

The Giallorossi had a blistering start, with their starlet delivering even out of position: after just three minutes, Zaniolo served a golden ball for Edin Dzeko deflecting with his chest a cross from the left wing and the Bosnian striker made no mistake on the one-on-one.

The Orobici tried to respond right away and were menacing on two corner kicks with Duvan Zapata and then with Josip Ilicic, whose lefty effort on a counter just missed the mark. However, the guests doubled their lead after half an hour, when Steven Nzonzi sprung Dzeko into space and the centre-forward dribbled past Etrit Berisha and deposited it in the empty net.

After Zaniolo was denied by the goalie on another fast-break, he set up Stephan El Shaarawy with a lovely little ball on a similar action and the Pharaoh easily made it 0-3 after just 40 minutes. However, Castagne gave the Goddess a lifeline just before the break: Ilicic and Alejando Gomez combined on the right side of the box and El Papu connected with the defender on the far post for a successful header.

At the beginning of the second half, after another pretty triangle, Ilicic got the ball from Gomez all alone in front of the goalie, but he had a horrid touch and gave it away. However, the tide had definitely turned and Rafael Toloi scored the second goal for his side with a header on open play at the 59th minute.

Nine minutes later, Ilicic waltzed past Kostas Manolas in the box and the defender tackled him: the referee initially ruled it a dive, but granted the penalty after a VAR review. However, Atalanta’s woes from the spot continued as Zapata skied it in one of the worst attempts seen in recent years. The Colombian made amends a minute later, burning Robin Olsen deep into the box with the help of a deflection. Hans Hateboer had the final chance of the game, but his lofting header died just over the bar.

With this result, Roma remain behind Milan in the Champions League race, while Atalanta were leapfrogged by Sampdoria at the sixth place. Few players were able to garner bonus points: Dzeko eight for his brace, Gomez and Zaniolo four because they had both a pair of assists, while El Shaarawy for his goal, Castagne, Toloi and Zapata got just two because they were deducted some, while Ilicic two for his feed to Zapata.

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