BACK IN THE BIG LEAGUE

Ata­lanta re­turn to Europe after 26 years as Spal are pro­moted after 49 years

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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

EPA PIC

Ata­lanta's Andrea Conti (right) scores against AC Mi­lan in a Serie A match at Atleti Az­zurri d'Italia Sta­dium in Berg­amo on Satur­day.

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