MILAN, July 25 – Atalanta’s Serie A title challenge nearly faded yesterday, after being held in a 1-1 draw at AC Milan leaving them five points behind leaders Juventus.
Second placed Atalanta advanced to 75 points with two games remaining, while Juventus can win the Scudetto for the ninth consecutive season if they beat Sampdoria at home tomorrow. Juve also has a game in hand.
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, who issued a one-match touchline ban during Tuesday’s 1-0 win against Bologna, watched from the stands as his team fell behind on a brilliant moment from Hakan Calhanoglu.
The Turkish winger sent a vicious free kick with a dip over goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, who got his finger on it but couldn’t keep the ball out in the 14th minute.
Atalanta had an opportunity to equalize when the video assistant referee (VAR) ruled that Ante Rebic had stamped on Ruslan Malinovsky, but the Ukrainian hit his spot kick at a perfect height for Gianluigi Donnarumma to save.
The visitors tied the score via Duvan Zapata, who excelled Davide Calabria to take the lead in the 34th minute, but despite this being their 96th league goal of the season, there was little sign of their usual firepower.
Instead, Milan came closest to getting a winner, as substitute Giacomo Bonaventura punched the foot of the left post with a shot in the second half that bounced off Gollini and nearly landed in the net.
Time was ticking in the 90th minute when Milan received a late cry for a penalty when striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to be bundled to the ground, but the referee waved their appeal away.
“It is not easy to win these games, they are very balanced. In this heat and after all those consecutive games … the fatigue took over a bit, “Gasperini told reporters. – Reuters