(Reuters) – Atalanta edged into the Champions League spots when a late Marten De Roon penalty and deflected Mario Pasalic strike earned a 2-0 win over Udinese in a tense Serie A game on Monday.
The Bergamo-based team, who have never qualified for the Europe’s flagship club competition before, moved into fourth place with 59 points, one ahead of AS Roma with four games left.
They are followed by Torino and AC Milan (56) and Lazio (55) in what has become a fascinating battle for fourth place.
Atalanta were missing forward Josip Ilicic and were frustrated by Udinese for the first hour before the cracks started appearing in the visiting defence.
The hosts twice failed to find the finishing touch to balls rolled across the face of goal and Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso made a desperate save after Alejandro Gomez’s cross was deflected towards goal.
But they also had a let-off in between as Rodrigo de Paul curled a low shot against the post after a solo run.
The breakthrough finally came with eight minutes left when Andrea Masiello skipped past Sandro and fell over the Brazilian’s trailing leg to win a penalty, although contact was minimal. Dutchman De Roon stepped up to convert from the spot.
Croatian Pasalic made sure of the points three minutes later with a low 20-metre strike which was deflected past Musso.
Udinese stayed 17th, one place and four points clear of the relegation zone.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)