Juve battle through fog to win at Bologna, Roma down Atalanta

AFP , Saturday 18 Dec 2021

Juventus gave their hopes of reaching the Champions League a boost on Saturday after a hard-fought 2-0 win at Bologna following Roma's thumping 4-1 victory at fancied Atalanta.

Alvaro Morata (L) and Juan Cuadrado ensured Juventus won at Bologna Vincenzo. AFP
Alvaro Morata (L) and Juan Cuadrado ensured Juventus won at Bologna Vincenzo. AFP

Goals in each half from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado ensured that Juve joined Roma at five points from the league's top four positions.

Massimiliano Allegri's side came away with the three points following a dogged performance at a ground which has proved tough terrain for some of Serie A's leading sides and was enveloped in thick fog for almost the entire match.

Juve sit a sobering 12 points behind champions and league leaders Inter Milan, who crushed Salernitana 5-0 on Friday, but while a title challenge is almost certainly out of the question this year a place in Europe's top club competition is something they can fight for.

How far they sit from that target come the end of the weekend depends on how injury-hit Napoli fare at fellow title-chasers AC Milan on Sunday night.

Luciano Spalletti's team are fourth but can go second with a win in northern Italy.

Currently third and a further point ahead of Juve and Roma are Atalanta despite being hit by a classically clinical performance by a Jose Mourinho team.

Juventus won in a similar style to Roma, with Morata pinching the lead for the away side on the break in the sixth minute, the Spain forward finishing after launching the attack and blasting home after a give-and-go with Federico Bernadeschi.

Juve were on the back foot for much of the match and home fans were ready to celebrate an equaliser in the 22nd minute when Mattias Svanberg lined up a bicycle kick from Mark Arnautovic's deflected cross, but the Swede's acrobatic effort flashed just wide.

After defending for the best part of 25 minutes from the start of the second half, Colombian Cuadrado sealed the win with a long range strike which took a wicked deflection Aaron Hickey.

Roma's smash and grab

England international Abraham opened the scoring with less than a minute on the clock at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo and, late on, rounded off coach Mourinho's biggest win since he returned to Serie A with a deft first-time strike to take his league tally to six for the season.

"What a win, what else can I say? A lot of people doubted us today but this is by far one of the best wins we've had this season," said Abraham to DAZN.

Nicolo Zaniolo, with his first Serie A goal since July last year, and Abraham's countryman Chris Smalling also netted in Roma's first win against one of Italy's top teams this season, denting Atalanta's burgeoning title hopes.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side are six points behind Inter after being defeated by a Roma team whose goals came from five shots on target after having less than 30 percent possession and no corners.

"There was a great spirit. It's clear that playing against Atalanta you can never be in control of the match for 90 minutes... the team was great in every department today," said Mourinho, who won the treble with Inter in 2010.

The match turned during four minutes midway through the second half in which Atalanta had a leveller ruled out by VAR for Jose Luis Palomino straying offside after challenging for Duvan Zapata's flick with Bryan Cristante and Smalling then poked home Roma's third.

The decision to rule out the hosts' leveller infuriated Gasperini who raged to DAZN that the referee told him a Palomino goal had been ruled out even though the Argentine had not, in fact, touched the ball.

"If Palomino didn't touch the ball, then why is it offside? If Cristante got the ball, then what difference does it make?" he asked.

"We would then have been level with 20 minutes to go, it's a very different game."

In Saturday's late game Cagliari try to get out of the relegation zone when they host Udinese in Sardinia.

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