Despite playing for more than half of the game with 10 men, a stubborn and spirited Atalanta dug in and fought tooth and nail to clinch a 2-1 win over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening.
Andreas Cornelius gave Atalanta an early lead which was soon doubled by Marten de Roon, before the latter got sent off late in the first half, which caused a dramatic change in the pattern of the game.
Lorenzo Pellegrini delivered the game’s first shot on goal from the edge of the visitors’ area. A clever ball inside from Stephan El Shaarawy found the midfielder, who was afforded the space to turn and shoot but his effort lacked any real precision and was easily gathered by Etrit Berisha.
Cornelius gave Atalanta the lead before the 15-minute mark with a fine finish, justifying Gian Piero Gasperini’s decision to select him ahead of Andrea Petagna in attack. Marten de Roon did well to intercept in midfield, moving the ball on to Josip Ilicic in the Roma half. The Slovenian then released Cornelius who charged into the box before stopping and shifting onto his left foot, allowing him to place the ball into the far bottom corner.
It did not take long for Atalanta to find the net again and this time it was De Roon finishing the move rather than starting it. Alejandro Gomez was set through by Leonardo Spinazzola, only for the Argentine to lose his footing when he reached the byline. Papu recovered and despite finding himself crowded out in the box, he kept composed and managed to find the space to pull the ball back for the Dutchman whose effort deflected beyond Alisson and in.
With half an hour played it almost got even worse for the Giallorossi. Papu Gomez first set Ilicic through, only for Kostas Manolas to make a vital challenge to intercept. Cornelius then had a chance to double his tally, but his shot taken at full stretch missed the target when he should have made Alisson work.
Cornelius had another chance within moments. After breaking into the box the Dane looked to find Ilicic in the middle but his centre was blocked by Manolas and, fortunately for Roma, went into the side netting. La Dea then hit the woodwork from the resulting corner. The ball dropped to the edge of the box from where Remo Freuler’s volleyed effort bounced back off the foot of the post.
Roma’s first clear chance fell to Edin Dzeko, in a similar position to where Cornelius opened the scoring from. The Bosnian attempted a similar finish, but his effort went narrowly outside of the post.
De Roon remained at the centre of attention as he was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for what was perceived to be a foul on Aleksandar Kolarov, who went to ground easily, which if you were betting with your mobile would have made you think about backing the Rome club.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the visitors had the first chances of the second half. Gomez forced a save from Alisson and from the resulting corner substitute Bryan Cristante’s header went narrowly over the bar.
A stroke of luck almost handed Roma their first 10 minutes into the second half. Dzeko headed a corner goalbound, which deflected off Hans Hateboer but Berisha recovered well at short notice to save. Dzeko did get his goal within a couple of minutes. After being set through by El Shaarawy the No.9 emphatically finished with Berisha charging him down.
The hosts, expectedly, continued to dominate as Atalanta clung on to their lead with everything they had, trying desperately to weather a prolonged Giallorossi storm. With the Bergamaschi defending in numbers, Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi tried their luck from range but their respective efforts went wide.
Substitute Andrea Masiello did his best to keep Roma at bay and the scores would have been level had he not thrown his body on the line to deny El Shaarawy in the 85th minute.
Cristante had a rare second half attempt for the visitors from a corner, but he snatched at the effort and sent his shot a long way over.