Atalanta struck twice early in the second half to secure a 2-0 victory over Napoli at the Gewiss Stadium in Serie A on Thursday.
After a tense first half, La Dea came flying out of the blocks in the second period and took advantage of slack defending to break the deadlock through Mario Pasalic’s header. Less than 10 minutes later, Robin Gosens doubled the lead with a neat strike in the box, as Napoli had no answer.
The defeat all but ends Napoli’s hopes of catching their opponents for the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, as Atalanta move 15 points clear with nine games remaining.
In a half of few clear chances, Napoli enjoyed the better of the earlier opportunities. Matteo Politano cut inside from the right and played a clever reverse pass into the box, but Mattia Caldara was alert to the danger and cleared before the on-rushing Lorenzo Insigne could pull the trigger.
Soon after, Dries Mertens was in on the action and saw a first time effort bend past the post after latching on to Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s cutback.
Whilst Duvan Zapata was holding the ball up well and had Napoli’s defence on the back foot, it was Partenopei centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly who came closest to breaking the deadlock. After a freekick came back out to Fabian Ruiz, the Senegalese defender rose highest to meet the return delivery but sent his header crashing over the bar.
At the other end, David Ospina was on hand to palm away a vicious Alejandro Gomez snapshot from range, as Atalanta looked to get a foothold in the game.
La Dea were proving dangerous from set-pieces and Gomez’s teasing low delivery from a free-kick forced Ospina into a smart save around the post. The Colombian custodian was caught above the eye by a stray knee as he made the save however, and after a lengthy delay was stretchered off.
Shortly before the interval, the hosts were almost ahead through another menacing Gomez free-kick from out wide. Zapata rose highest to power a header onward, but Rafael Toloi was unable to guide his touch in at the back post.
Immediately after the restart, Atalanta pounced on poor defending to go ahead. A heavy Ruiz touch allowed Timothy Castagne to rob possession on the edge of the box and slip Gomez in, and the captain’s pinpoint cross was nodded home by the unmarked Pasalic.
Within 10 minutes of the second half the advantage was doubled through a rapid counter attack. Centre-back Toloi pushed forward and flicked the ball into the path of Castagne and the winger cut the ball back to the Brazilian, who laid it off for Gosens to stroke home at the back post with ease.
Napoli weren’t without chances to get back into the match, as Ruiz drilled wide in space after being released by a clever Arkadiusz Milik backheel. Meanwhile, Koulibaly once again found space in the box to meet Nikola Maksimovic’s cross, but sent his header well over the bar.
Despite a spirited effort from the Partenopei late on, Atalanta held out for victory to move four points behind third-placed Inter.