Padraig Whelan Date: 26th May 2019 at 10:32pm
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History was made at the Mapei Stadium on Sunday night as Atalanta overcame Sassuolo 3-1 to reach the Champions League for the first time in their storied history.

Prior to kick-off, the Bergemaschi knew that three points would be enough to secure their safe passage to a top four berth, although their task was made somewhat more difficult by facing Sassuolo in a ‘home’ venue that their opponents have used throughout their time in the top flight.

Whether that had any kind of advantage or not, it was the regular tenants who settled fastest into the contest, perhaps taking advantage of some Orobici anxiety to hit the front on 18 minutes.

Atalanta had been left furious by a decision not to award them a free-kick after Josip Ilicic went down on the edge of the area and from a deadly Neroverdi break, Alfred Duncan teed up Domenico Berardi with a delightful back heel and the forward steered home via the upright.

As the game began to turn a little nasty, Atalanta could have been forgiven for allowing frustration to get the best of them but kept cool heads and were rewarded for it with a leveller on 34 minutes in the scrappiest manner possible.

A low corner-kick caused havoc in the area and ended with the ball being cleared off Duvan Zapata, only to rebound back over the line to ease the tension around the Mapei Stadium slightly.

Remo Freuler and Alejandro Gomez both had efforts before the interval that failed to find the target and the whistle to end the half brought with it a fracas that saw Marten De Roon make the most of a coming together with Francesco Magnanelli and Berardi shown a red card for his involvement.

It didn’t take Atalanta long to make their man advantage count and on 52 minutes, they struck to take the lead as Ilicic had a low strike saved by Gianluca Pegolo, although he could only parry into the path of Gomez and he scooped the ball into the net, via the aid of a late clearance attempt.

There no was no coming back for Roberto De Zerbi’s men after that and on 65 minutes, Atalanta extended their advantage as substitute Mario Pasalic planted an emphatic header past Pegolo following a neat dribble and cross from Gomez.

Magnanelli was sent off in the closing stages as Atalanta ended the season with the win they needed to complete one of Italian football’s greatest fairytale stories.