Atalanta defeated 10-man Cagliari 1-0 to register eight straight Serie A wins and in doing so closed the gap on third-placed Inter to just one point.
Luis Muriel’s 27th minute penalty – his 16th goal in 10 Serie A starts – separated the sides, despite Walter Zenga’s men having had Andrea Carboni sent off in the incident that led to the spot kick.
The Colombian’s goal meant that Atalanta have now scored a highly impressive 83 Serie A goals this season, but they were refused more, much to the credit of the Isolani, who dug deep to ensure that Gian Piero Gasperini’s side didn’t run amok in Sardinia.
The home side thought they’d taken the lead on the 13th minute when birthday boy Giovanni Simeone curled in an exquisite effort from the edge of the area, but a brief VAR intervention ensured his joy was short lived after he was adjudged to have touched the ball with his hand in the build up.
Muriel struck the post for the Bergamaschi, before Simeone broke down the other end of the pitch for the home side before striking a left-footed effort just wide of Marco Sportiello’s upright as the game flowed from end-to-end.
Then arrived the drama when youngster Carboni was sent off on the 26th minute after being given a second yellow card on only his second professional start, leaving the home side with 10 men for the remainder of the game.
Muriel stepped up and tucked away his 16th Serie A goal of the season from the spot to leave Casteddu with a mountain to climb but the hosts managed to keep it that way, even though the visitors enjoyed the majority of possession and 26 shots on goal.
The second half started intensely with Gasperini’s side pressing hard and they almost doubled their lead when Hans Hateboer hit the post with a header before Fabio Pisacane acrobatically cleared off the line.
The 60th minute saw the introduction of Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez in the type of triple substitution that most sides in Europe’s top leagues can only dream of making, much to the dismay of the ever increasingly tired Cagliari.
However, Zenga’s side never gave up and ensured that the normally free-scoring Atalanta didn’t run away with the game, despite the numerical advantage.