Duvan Zapata got Atalanta back winning in Serie A after consecutive losses with a hat-trick against former club Udinese on Sunday (Dec 9) that brought them to within touching distance of the Champions League places.
|Atalanta's Duvan Zapata (left) vies for the ball with Udinese's Giuseppe Pezzella during a Serie A football match. (Source: Stefano Lancia/ANSA via AP) |
Colombian striker Zapata's goals put Gian Piero Gasperini's side seventh, just four points away from fourth place and the final Champions League spot held by AC Milan.
"We're aiming for the Scudetto (league title) now," laughed Gasperini.
Atalanta move above Roma, both on 21 points alongside three other teams, after the capital club threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at nine-man Cagliari on Saturday.
Leaders Juventus are eight points clear of second-placed Napoli, who smashed Frosinone 4-0 on Saturday, with Inter Milan a further six points back in third after losing to the champions on Friday.
Milan host Torino later Sunday looking to close the gap on their city rivals to just one point.
"We're in the company of great teams, everyone can fight for the Europa League and maybe even for fourth place," added Gasperini.
"It's a balanced league this year, I don't remember one being so tight."
Zapata opened the scoring after just two minutes when Rafael Toloi nodded on a Papu Gomez corner and the Colombian finished from close range, only for Kevin Lasagna to quickly respond for the hosts, levelling 10 minutes later.
However Zapata struck again on 62 minutes when teenage substitute Musa Barrow failed to finish Hans Hateboer's cross and the ball fell to the striker.
The 27-year-old sealed the points 10 minutes from time with his first ever hat-trick in Italy, again off an Hateboer cross.
"Zapata's enjoying a good moment," said Gasparini, after the South American also scored in last week's defeat to Napoli, who had loaned him to Udinese.
"He's in great condition and is an extra option for us."
MIRALLAS RESCUES FIORENTINA
Earlier on-loan Everton winger Kevin Mirallas struck his first Serie A goal six minutes into injury time to snatch a point for Fiorentina in a dramatic 3-3 draw at Sassuolo that saw both teams finish with 10 men.
Belgian Mirallas, 31, who joined the Tuscan side on a season-long loan after falling out of favour at Goodison Park, came on as a late substitute and made an instant impact when he beat Sassuolo keeper Andrea Consigli with seconds remaining.
A chaotic final period saw Sassuolo's Filip Djuricic and Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic sent off before Fiorentina struck back.
Mirallas' late leveller, which came after his side had gone 3-1 down with 10 minutes remaining, means ninth-placed Sassuolo are also on 21 points, two points ahead of Fiorentina, who drop to 12th after their eighth game without a win.
Cesare Prandelli started his reign as Genoa coach with a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers SPAL, despite captain Domenico Criscito being sent off in the 11th minute.
Andrea Petagna had headed SPAL ahead minutes after Criscito's dismissal for a high tackle, but Krzysztof Piatek earned Genoa a point from the penalty spot with his 11th goal of the season -- taking him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts.
Elsewhere Parma were held 1-1 at home by 10-man Chievo after Bruno Alves' free-kick cancelled out Mariusz Stepinski's shock opener for the Serie A bottom club, while Empoli beat Bologna 2-1 in a battle between relegation candidates.
Italian Serie A results:
Sassuolo 3 Fiorentina 3
Empoli 2 Bologna 1
Parma 1 Chievo 1
Udinese 1 Atalanta 3
Genoa 1 SPAL 1
AC Milan 0 Torino 0