Pessina strike stalls high-flying Atalanta in Verona

Milan (AFP)

Matteo Pessina grabbed the equaliser for Hellas Verona to hold his high-flying parent club Atalanta 1-1 in Serie A on Saturday.

Atalanta move level on points with second-placed Inter Milan, but are six points adrift of Serie A leaders Juventus.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta are preparing to meet Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last eight.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta are preparing to meet Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last eight. Miguel MEDINA AFP

On-loan Pessina tapped in just before the hour mark in Verona minutes after Colombian striker Duvan Zapata had put the visitors ahead.

Atalanta are equal on 71 points with Inter Milan, who travel to fifth-placed Roma on Sunday, with eight-time reigning champions Juventus, hosting fourth-placed Lazio, who are eight points adrift of top spot, on Monday.

Atalanta have scored in a club record 22 games in a row, but Zapata’s second-half goal was not enough to bring home the three points.

Gasperini’s side are the only team to remain unbeaten on the road this season, but their hopes of a first Scudetto in the team’s 112-year history are all but over with four games left to play.

“Talking about the Scudetto was always excessive,” said Gasperini.

“Since the restart (after coronavirus), we’ve been notching up results at Scudetto-pace, but that was never our objective because something extraordinary had to happen for us, but also for Juventus.

“We lack a point to get to the Champions League,” continued Gasperini, whose side will play Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight of this year’s edition next month.

“It’s true, our thoughts are on the PSG, a lot. We set some milestones in the championship, the record, the second place.

“But we use these games to prepare ourselves for even higher quality and the Champions League.”

– Verona revenge –

Promoted Verona, in ninth, are coached by ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Juric, who played under Gasperini in Genoa and was his assistant at Inter Milan and then Palermo.

“It was a good match against a difficult team who wanted revenge after a controversial loss to Roma,” added Gasperini, who lamented his side’s “lack of lucidity to close down the game”.

Atalanta threatened early on, with Mario Pasalic, scorer of a hat-trick against Brescia during the week, forcing a save from Marco Silvestri after quarter of an hour.

Zapata came close before the break, before getting his chance five minutes into the second half pouncing on a blunder by Koray Gunter to blast past Silvestri.

It was the Colombian’s 18th goal in all competitions this season, and 80th in his Serie A career between Atalanta, Sampdoria, Udinese and Napoli.

Four minutes later midfielder Pessina drew Verona level, sending in a rebound for his seventh league goal this season, after Pierluigi Gollini denied Amir Rrahmani.

“I’m a bit sorry because I owe so much to Atalanta,” said Pessina, “but I’m a Verona player now.

“I’m happy that my goals this season were important to the team to stay in the top-flight and to aim high.”

AC Milan host Bologna later Saturday looking to move into the Europa League places with in-form Sassuolo travelling to Cagliari.

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