Atalanta's Champions League belief growing as Roma held in Genoa

Milan (AFP) –


Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said his side's belief in a first-ever Champions League qualification was gaining momentum after a 3-1 comeback win over Lazio on Sunday as rivals Roma were held 1-1 at Genoa.

"We believed in a Champions League place before, but now we believe in it even more," said Gasperini.

The side from Bergamo are comfortably fourth and move to within one point of third-placed Inter Milan who were held to their third consecutive stalemate on Saturday with a goalless draw at Udinese.

Roma missed the chance to close the gap after a 1-1 draw at Genoa and are now three points behind Atalanta in fifth.

The battle for Champions League football remains tight with six teams in the running for the final two places.

Champions Juventus are assured of a berth with a 19-point lead on second-placed Napoli, who host Cagliari later Sunday, and are also positioned for top-tier European football next season.

Torino are two points behind Roma in sixth after a 1-1 draw against Juventus on Friday.

But AC Milan, in seventh, can move to three points off the final Champions League place with a win at home against Bologna on Monday.

"It's not done yet, as there are Milan and Roma who are right up there. We've perhaps pushed Lazio behind now, but it's still wide open," said Gasperini.

The Atalanta coach said their self-belief has been gaining momentum since a 2-1 win at Napoli two weeks ago, and the in-form northerners return to Rome again on May 15 for the Coppa Italia final against Lazio.

"I had already said I would choose the place in the Champions League, but raising a trophy is not an everyday thing," said Gasperini.

- Zapata on form -

Atalanta had gotten off to the worst possible start after Marco Parolo had opened the scoring for Lazio after just three minutes in the Stadio Olimpico.

But Duvan Zapata hit back on 22 minutes for his sixth goal in eight league games.

Zapata had threatened early on sending a shot over the bar but made no mistake at the second time of asking by latching onto a Remo Freuler cross to fire in.

The Colombian has scored one goal more than Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, with 22 this season, and is three short of league top scorer Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria.

Timothy Castagne added a second just before the hour mark with Lazio's Brazilian defender Wallace turning into his own net after 76 minutes.

Lazio's Champions League hopes, however, have faded with Simone Inzaghi's side seven points adrift of top four with the Europa League also at risk.

In Genoa, Claudio Ranieri's side thought they had the winner when Stephan El Shaarawy volleyed in after 82 minutes.

But Cristian Romero nodded in on 90 minutes for Genoa, with the hosts missing the chance for a winner with goalkeeper Antonio Mirante saving Antonio Sanabria's weak penalty effort.

"It's a pity because we needed the three points, but we won't give up," said Ranieri.

For Genoa it was a precious point as they sit just four above the relegation zone.

In Parma, veteran striker Quagliarella scored a brace for Sampdoria in a 3-3 draw to extend his lead on top of the Serie A scorers to 25 goals.

At the bottom of the table, Frosinone join Chievo in Serie B next season after a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo. The side from outside Rome are ten points behind Udinese in 17th with three games left to play.