BACK IN THE BIG LEAGUE
Atalanta return to Europe after 26 years as Spal are promoted after 49 years
ATALANTA conceded a late equaliser and drew with regional rival AC Milan 1-1 in Serie A on Saturday but still celebrated their return to Europe after 26 years.
Atalanta are fifth, six points ahead of Milan with two rounds remaining.
The fourth-to sixth-placed clubs qualify for the Europa League, a competition that Atalanta have not participated in since 1991.
Gerard Deulofeu scored three minutes from time after Andrea Conti put Atalanta ahead just before halftime.
“It’s a bit bitter. We conceded one error and Milan scored. But we achieved our goal,” Atalanta striker Alejandro “Papu” Gomez said. “We started dreaming about Europe around Christmas and we’ve finally achieved our goal.”
Meanwhile, Milan’s winless streak extended to five matches.
Conti scored after Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma failed to collect a cross, while Deulofeu’s shot deflected in off defender Andrea Masiello.
Atalanta are on course to finish ahead of both of the Milan clubs — AC Milan and Inter Milan — for the first time, and could also match their best finish of fifth in 1948.
Earlier, Fiorentina came from a goal down to beat visiting Lazio 3-2 and keep alive their hope of qualifying for the Europa League.
After Keita Balde Diao put Lazio ahead early in the second half, fellow Senegal international Khouma Babacar equalised for Fiorentina.
Nikola Kalinic gave Fiorentina the lead with a rebound, and an own goal from Cristiano Lombardi put Fiorentina up by two goals.
Alessandro Murgia pulled one back for Lazio in the 81st.
Lazio remained fourth while Fiorentina were seventh, one point behind Milan.
Also, Ferrara-based club Spal secured promotion back into Serie A after a 49-year absence.
The Serie B leader secured the celebration despite losing at Terni 2-1, because third-placed Frosinone also lost at Benevento.
With one round remaining, Spal held a two-point lead over Hellas Verona and were four points ahead of Frosinone.
Verona wasted a chance to secure promotion, drawing with Carpi 1-1.
The top two finishers are promoted directly while the thirdplace finisher can be promoted directly if it holds a 10-point lead over the fourth-placed club. Otherwise there is a playoff to determine the third promoted squad.
Frosinone is eight points ahead of fourth-place Citadella entering the final round.
Spal, which stands for Societa Polisportiva Ars et Labor, last competed in the top division in 1968. AP
Atalanta's Andrea Conti (right) scores against AC Milan in a Serie A match at Atleti Azzurri d'Italia Stadium in Bergamo on Saturday.