Bergamo team qualify for Champions League
|Atalanta have never before qualified|
to play in the Champions League
Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, to give the club’s full name, beat Sassuolo 3-1 to finish the season with 69 points.
Inter Milan, who finished on 69 points but with an inferior goal difference, also qualify for the Champions League - Europe’s premier soccer competition - but AC Milan (68 points) and AS Roma (66) have to settle for places in the Europa League.
Two years ago, the Orobici or Nerazzurri, as they are popularly known, qualified for the Europa League, giving them their first taste of European football for 26 years, and did so again last season. This season they reached the final of the Coppa Italia for the first time in 23 years, losing to Rome club Lazio.
But qualifying for the Champions League trumps those achievements, reflecting well on the qualities of coach Gian Piero Gasparini, who has been in charge for just under three years.
Atalanta began the current Serie A season with a victory over Frosinone but failed to win any of their next seven matches, suffering four defeats.
|Colombian striker Duvan Zapata|
has been Atalanta's top scorer
They have been praised for their entertaining, attacking football under Gasparini. No team in Serie A has scored more goals than their tally of 77, which is seven more than champions Juventus.
Colombian Duvan Zapata, who finished as the club's top scorer this season with 23 goals, netted the first goal in the win over Sassuolo, which was officially a home match but was played at the Sassuolo stadium in Emilia Romagna because of redevelopment work at Atalanta’s own stadium in the Città Bassa. The others were scored by Argentinian forward Papu Gomez and the Croatian midfielder Mario Pasalic, on loan from Chelsea.
During the closing weeks of the season, the Orobici achieved some spectacular results, including away wins at Napoli and Lazio and a draw in Turin against Juventus.
Setting aside tribal loyalties, their achievement has been admired by Italian football fans because they did it on approximately a quarter of the budget of Juventus and the powerful Milan clubs.