Atalanta announced themselves as contenders for the Serie A title as they snatched a 3-2 win over Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Saturday.
In an exhilarating encounter in Naples, La Dea took an early lead through Ruslan Malinovskyi but then found themselves behind to goals from Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens.
However, a quickfire double from Merih Demiral and Remo Freuler saw the pendulum swing once more and move Gian Piero Gasperini’s side to within two points of their hosts, and crucially just four behind leaders AC Milan.
It was the latest in a string of important results for Atalanta, who have now won five on the bounce to overcome a slow start to the season and haul themselves back into contention for the title. Building on a historic win over Juventus, the Orobici have crucially found their scoring touch by putting five past Spezia and four against Venezia.
Similarly, they became the first team to breach the almost impenetrable home defence at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona more than once, with Napoli only conceded two goals on their own ground in Serie A all season.
Hitting their stride at just the right time, Atalanta have rediscovered their flair and devastating attacking play and have a manageable run of fixtures over the next month, before facing second-placed Inter in mid-January.
For Napoli, a sensational start to the campaign has now ground to a halt and the Partenopei have thrown away a healthy lead at the top of the table. Having had the opportunity to move 10 points clear of Inter just two weeks ago, they are now a point behind the Nerazzurri.
Luciano Spalletti will point to a decimated squad that is without key figures in Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen, whilst Lorenzo Insigne also sat out the visit of Atalanta. Nonetheless, a look north to Milan shows a Rossoneri side that have managed an injury crisis of their own to remain in command.
It is still early in the season and perhaps Napoli had set unrealistic expectations following nine wins and draw from their first 10 games, but with only a single victory in their past five matches, there is understandable concern.
A clash with Milan is just a fortnight away, and it could prove decisive in the Partenopei’s season.