Cagliari ended the season on a high with a 1-0 win over Atalanta in their final game of the season as their Serie A status was preserved for another season with Atalanta simultaneously having their European return confirmed.
A game that started with so much on the line quickly became something of a precession as results elsewhere dictated that both sides’ fate was taken out of their own hands, and both would end the day in celebration.
There was an early VAR scare for the Sardinians. An Atalanta corner fell in the box and hit a hand in a crowd of bodies and was initially ignored, only to be checked on VAR after the hosts had won a corner themselves. To their relief, though, the appeals were waved away.
Artur Ionita then picked out a sublime cross-field ball to find Diego Farias in the box, who forced Pierlugi Gollini into a good save. Gollini was again called into action within a couple of minutes as a deflected strike wrong-footed him, but not quite enough to beat him as he managed to get across his goal and turn the ball away once more.
Midway through the half the hosts appeared to be clinging on for a brief spell. A corner caused chaos in the area; Alessio Cragno was completely lost in his six-yard box and had Leonardo Pavoletti to thank for heading the ball clear off the line. The danger had not yet passed though and Josip Ilicic worked some space on the right of the area, cut back and curled an effort across goal with his left foot that dipped and curled just wide of the Cragno’s top-right corner.
With Crotone meanwhile falling behind in Naples, Cagliari’s urgency and need to win to ensure survival somewhat faded, and the game lost some of its tempo for what remained of the first half, while proceedings in AC Milan’s match against Fiorentina dictated that a win for Atalanta would move them above the Rossoneri and into sixth place until they went ahead just before half-time.
It was Farias who had the first effort of the second half too. Picking the ball up on the edge of a packed area, he cleverly shimmied to the right into space and fired off an effort that could only find the side netting of the Dea goal.
As the second halves around Italy progressed, the game in Sardinia became more of a formality than a contest despite starting with so much on the line. Milan pulled well clear of Fiorentina, meaning that Atalanta’s spot in seventh was secured and that they could not leapfrog the Rossoneri, while Crotone had no hope of turning things around at the Stadio San Paolo.
Musa Barrow was introduced for Bryan Cristante, who might have played his last game for the Bergamaschi, but even the Gambian struggled to inject some pace into the game.
Perhaps Atalanta’s best player this season, Remo Freuler, came close and forced Cragno into an impressive save as he looked to find the top corner from 20 yards.
Farias continued to be his side’s brightest spark, but he remained lacking in precision at the decisive moments. Barrow did have an effort as he drove a strike at Cragno when a loose ball popped up on the edge but the effort was saved.
The game had a pre-season feel by the end, which was emphasised when Atalanta’s third choice goalkeeper Francesco Rossi was given his first Serie A minutes as he was brought on for a giggling Gollini with just under ten minutes to play.
Cagliari did go ahead in the dying minutes through Luca Ceppitelli as he got on the end of a Luca Cigarini corner to head home from six yards. Mattia Caldara had the chance to bow out of Atalanta on a high in his final appearance for the club, but he fired a last minute penalty over the crossbar.
In the end, both teams were left relatively happy as Cagliari’s time in Serie A was extended by another season while Gian Piero Gasperini’s Goddess ensured they would compete in Europe again, though their campaign will now begin on July 25th as the qualification for the Europa League gets underway.