Bologna beat Atalanta to continue Champions League dream

Bologna beat Atalanta to continue Champions League dream

© AFP 2022
March 3, 2024 at 7:57 PM
Joshua Zirkzee scored his 10th league goal of the season for Bologna on Sunday
Joshua Zirkzee scored his 10th league goal of the season for Bologna on Sunday. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Bologna's dream season continued on Sunday after coming from behind to win 2-1 at top-four rivals Atalanta and strengthen their bid for a Champions League debut.

Joshua Zirkzee celebrated his first Netherlands call-up by levelling Ademola Lookman's first-half opener with a penalty in the 57th minute before Lewis Ferguson won the match with a beautiful volley four minutes later.

A sixth straight win put daylight between Thiago Motta's Bologna and the rest of the bidders for next season's revamped version of Europe's top club competition.

Surprising Bologna are fourth, four points ahead of fellow in-form outfit Roma, who thumped Monza 4-1 on Saturday, and are, in turn, a point ahead of sixth-placed Atalanta.

"I looked up at the ball as it came past Joshua and the only thing I thought was 'shoot'," said Ferguson to DAZN of his fine winner.

"It was a hard match because they have a lot of quality players. We had to run a lot but we did really, really well."

Bologna are seven-time Italian champions, but their most recent Scudetto came in 1964. They haven't lifted a trophy since the 1998 Intertoto Cup.

The following season, Bologna reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup only to be knocked out on away goals by Marseille.

Their last league title led to a short-lived campaign in the old European Cup, where they were knocked out at the first attempt by Anderlecht on a coin toss following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

"I'm not thinking about it at all, I'm just thinking about our performances," insisted Motta when asked about Champions League qualification.

Next weekend Bologna host runaway league leaders Inter Milan -- who play Genoa on Monday night -- while Atalanta are at Juventus and Roma at Fiorentina.

Juve are 12 points behind Inter in second and are at Napoli in Sunday's headline late match trying to cut that yawning gap.

Berardi's Euro at risk

Domenico Berardi is at risk of missing Euro 2024 with Italy after suffering an Achilles tendon injury during Sassuolo's 1-0 defeat at relegation rivals Verona.

Karol Swiderski ensured that Verona stayed one place above the relegation zone with the only goal against 19th-placed Sassuolo, who lost their first match under Davide Ballardini and are in free fall.

New coach Ballardini said after his team's seventh defeat in eight matches that he feared Berardi, who made his first start after nearly two months out injured, had torn his Achilles tendon.

That is an injury which, if confirmed, would end the winger's season and also mean he misses Italy's European Championship defence in Germany this summer.

Cagliari are just inside the bottom three but level on 23 points with Verona after Jakub Jankto netted the decisive strike in a 1-0 win at Empoli.

Jankto struck in the 69th minute to hand Empoli their first defeat since they hired escape specialist Davide Nicola in mid-January.

Empoli are only two points above the drop zone in 14th in a crowded battle against relegation, level with Lecce who drew 1-1 at fellow strugglers Frosinone.

© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022