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Atalanta hold Inter to give title hopefuls a boost


Milan (AFP) – Atalanta gave Inter Milan’s Serie A title rivals a boost on Sunday with a goalless draw which ends the champions’ eight-match winning run and gives AC Milan the chance to claim top spot.

A keenly-fought contest in Bergamo finished with a blank scoresheet despite each side creating a handful of golden scoring opportunities, with goalkeepers Juan Musso and Samir Handanovic excelling between their respective sticks.

Simone Inzaghi’s Inter stay top but Milan, who are two points behind their local rivals in second, can take the summit with a win over Spezia at the San Siro on Monday night.

Atalanta stay eight points back in fourth but can take huge credit from their display with a host of key players unavailable injured or with Covid-19 infections.

They are a point behind third-placed Napoli ahead of their match at Bologna on Monday hoping to gain some ground on Inter, who like Atalanta will have played a game fewer come the end of this round of fixtures.

Edin Dzeko nodded wide the first clear chance of the night with a quarter of an hour gone, and 10 minutes later Musso kept the scores level with an outstanding save from Alexis Sanchez’s close range effort.

It was Samir Handanovic’s turn to save his team four minutes after the break when he charged out to stop Matteo Pessina giving the hosts the lead from point-blank range.

From that scare Inter then tried to push on for the win, but Inzaghi could hardly believe his eyes when first Giuseppe Pezzella stopped Matteo Darmian from scoring with a clearance at full stretch, and then Dzeko somehow headed over when Denzel Dumfries served him with a golden opportunity to open the scoring.

Handanovic again kept the scores level with 10 minutes remaining when he got down superbly to save from Luis Muriel, who had turned on the turbo to burst away from Alessandro Bastoni and Milan Skriniar.

And once Mario Pasalic and Danilo D’Ambrosio both wasted great chances to snatch the win for each side, an eventful match petered out into a draw.

– Oliveira on target for Roma –

Earlier Sergio Oliveira was decisive on his Roma debut after scoring the penalty which gave his new team a 1-0 win over struggling Cagliari.

Oliveira, who was signed on loan from Porto on Wednesday, stroked home a 33rd minute spot-kick at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome after a handball by Dalbert was given following a VAR check.

Roma came into the match off the back of two humbling defeats to AC Milan and Juventus, and after losing key midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in the pre-match warm-up they failed to catch fire against Cagliari.

The hosts got into good positions but fluffed final passes and finishes, and Cagliari would have snatched a point with five minutes remaining had Rui Patricio not tipped Joao Pedro’s close-range effort onto the bar.

“We had complete control but the match could have finished four, 5-0 or 1-1,” said Mourinho, who blasted his team’s mentality after the Juve defeat last weekend. 

“Usually when you play like this you don’t feel any pressure but today I felt it right until the end of the match.”

Cagliari would have escaped the relegation zone had they made it three wins in a row, but are two points from safety after another new boy in Nani made an immediate impression by setting up David Okereke’s leveller seconds after coming on in 17th-placed Venezia’s 1-1 home draw with Empoli.

“I was a bit worried because I haven’t had many training sessions with the team and right now I’m not at my best physically but when you want to do something good you can,” said Nani to DAZN.

Empoli sit 11th, one point behind Verona who won an entertaining early match at Sassuolo 4-2 thanks to Antonin Barak’s hat-trick.

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