Malta Independent

Loss at Atalanta leaves Juventus at risk of missing Champions League


Forget about extending its record run of nine straight Serie A titles.

At this rate, Juventus may not even qualify for the Champions League.

Atalanta, the Italian league's ongoing Cinderella story, beat the Bianconeri 1-0 with a late goal from Ruslan Malinovsky­i on Sunday to leapfrog Andrea Pirlo's team into third place.

The defeat came on a day of reports that Juventus is part of a group of European heavyweigh­ts renewing threats to walk away from the Champions League and create a Super League.

Juventus dropped to fourth — which carries the final Champions League berth — two points behind Atalanta and remained three points ahead of Napoli, which can pull level if it beats Italian leader Inter Milan later.

Juventus has won only one of its last four matches and lost twice in that span — with the other defeat coming at home against promoted Benevento last month.

What's more is that Atalanta now also holds the advantage over Juventus if a tiebreaker is needed. Head-to-head records are the first criteria used in Italy and the teams drew 1-1 in December.

Juventus was missing an injured Cristiano Ronaldo and produced few chances in Bergamo before Malinovsky­i's shot in the 87th minute took a major deflection off Alex Sandro and sent goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny the wrong way.

It marked Atalanta's first victory over Juventus in Serie A in more than two decades — since Feb. 2001.

It was just the latest in a series of exploits from Atalanta, which reached the quarterfin­als of last season's Champions League.

Juventus has failed to win all four Serie A matches that Ronaldo has missed this season, including two when he had the coronaviru­s and another when he was rested.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c suspended, an own-goal from highly touted Genoa striker Gianluca Scamacca proved the winner for AC Milan in a 2-1 victory.

Milan's first home win in more than two months made sure the Rossoneri held onto second place.

Scamacca turned away when a corner kick sailed over the head of Mario Mandzukic and the ball ricocheted off his back and into Genoa's goal.

Ante Rebic had put Milan ahead early with a long-range half volley.

Mattia Destro then equalized for Genoa with a header following poor defending from Fikayo Tomori.

Lazio also got two own-goals in a 5-3 win over Benevento for its fifth straight victory, moving the sixth-place Roman club within four points of Juventus.

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi missed the game against his brother and coaching counterpar­t Filippo Inzaghi with the coronaviru­s.

Ciro Immobile scored twice — the first was his 150th in Serie A — and Joaquin Correa converted a penalty for Lazio, which also got own-goals from Fabio Depaoli and Lorenzo Montipo.

Also, Bologna beat promoted Spezia 4-1.

Dortmund beats Bremen 4-1, revives Champions League hopes

Erling Haaland ended his fourgame scoreless run to help Borussia Dortmund beat Werder Bremen 4-1 and cut the distance to the Bundesliga's Champions League qualificat­ion spots on Sunday.

Dortmund profited from fourthplac­e Eintracht Frankfurt's defeat to Borussia Mönchengla­dbach the day before to move four points behind Frankfurt with five games of the season remaining.

Dortmund, which was knocked out of the Champions League in the quarterfin­als by Manchester City on Wednesday, also has a German Cup semifinal match against second-division Holstein Kiel on May 1.

Dortmund coach Edin Terzić made two changes from the team that lost 2-1 to City on Wednesday, bringing in Gio Reyna and Julian Brandt for Emre Can and Ansgar Knauff, who dropped to the bench.

Counterpar­t Florian Kohfeldt made a host of changes to the team that lost 4-1 at home to Leipzig last weekend.

One of them, Milot Rashica, opened the scoring in the 14th minute, when Maximilian Eggestein played him through with a brilliant pass from midfield. Mats Hummels was unable to stop the speeding Rashica, who fired low inside the far post.

But Reyna equalized with a thunderous shot inside the top right corner from just outside the penalty area in the 29th, shortly before Bremen's Kevin Möhwald conceded a penalty for a foul on Reus.

Haaland duly scored from the spot in the 34th. It was his first goal in April.

Haaland will hardly get an easier finish for his second goal four minutes later, when Bremen's defense failed to deal with Reyna's cross and left the tall forward completely free at the far post to tap in.

The Norwegian might have had a hat trick but Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka got his fingertips to his shot early in the second half, and he had a late goal ruled out for offside.

Theodor Gebre Selassie was unable to stop Hummels' header from a corner crossing the line in the 87th.

Eggestein's effort off the post was closest the visitors got in the second half.

Sunday's other Bundesliga game between Mainz and Hertha Berlin was called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Hertha.

PSG scores last-gasp winner, closes gap on leader Lille

Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain scored in the last seconds of injury time to beat Saint-Etienne 3-2 and close the gap on league leader Lille to one point on Sunday.

PSG had just gifted Saint-Etienne an equalizer in the second minute of injury time when Mauro Icardi rose to head home Angel Di Maria's cross three minutes later as the substitute­s combined to give PSG a much-needed victory.

There are only five games left after this weekend in one of the closest title races for many years. Rival Monaco won 3-0 at struggling Bordeaux to stay one point behind PSG and keep hold of third place with fourth-place Lyon in action later at 19th-place Nantes.

PSG's Kylian Mbappe scored twice to take his league-leading tally to 23.

He equalized with a fine finish in the 78th minute, one minute after striker Denis Bouanga put the visitors ahead at Parc des Princes, and then struck a penalty in the 86th after he was fouled by goalkeeper Etienne Green.

But PSG gifted the visitors a goal when Bouanga was given too much space down the left and his shot was poorly dealt with by goalkeeper Sergio Rico with Romain Hamouma in position to tap in.

PSG winger Pablo Sarabia struck the post with a free kick after 30 minutes and Green — a former club ball boy — made his first save five minutes later from Rafinha's low shot.

In between, Saint-Etienne winger Wahbi Khazri had a goal ruled out for offisde.

Pochettino made a triple substituti­on midway through the second half, bringing on midfielder Marco Verratti, Di Maria and Icardi.

Di Maria failed to close down on the left and overlappin­g full back Miguel Trauco had plenty of time to pick out Bouanga's close-range finish.

But Saint-Etienne was napping at the restart.

Verratti's long ball over the top was expertly controlled by Mbappe with the outside of his foot and he slid it under Green for 1-1.

Pochettino's first game in charge of PSG was also against Saint-Etienne in January and ended in a draw.

He was somewhat fortunate this time, while Claude Puel said his young Saint-Etienne side paid for a lack of composure.

"It really hurts to concede a goal 15 seconds from time ... We scored a great first goal, but celebrated it far too much and conceded straight after," Puel said. "We didn't get our reward due to some inexperien­ce. We paid dearly for it, so there are a lot of regrets."

Lille dropped points when it was held 1-1 at home to Montpellie­r on Friday.

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