SPAL came back from a goal down to hold 10-man Atalanta and very nearly won it in stoppages, where they were denied by the upright.
The Orobici were top of their Europa League group and needed just one point to qualify, but their Serie A form was a little more inconsistent. Josip Ilicic was out injured, but Papu Gomez returned to bolster the attack. Newcomers SPAL had Pasquale Schiattarella suspended, plus Alex Meret, Sergio Floccari and Vaisanen on the treatment table, so Alberto Paloschi started against his former club.
These sides had not met since a 2-1 SPAL victory in the 1996-97 Coppa Italia. Atalanta’s last victory was 1-0 here in January 1977, followed by four 1-1 draws and two losses, home and away in all competition.
Paloschi’s glancing header whistled just wide of the far post in the opening minutes, but Papu Gomez got in the way to deflect a Hans Hateboer strike over the bar and Andrea Petagna’s angled drive was smothered.
Petagna had the ball in the back of the net on 14 minutes, but had wandered offside before meeting the Gomez cross from the left.
Jose Luis Palomino bravely charged down two Manuel Lazzari screamers in quick succession, but Atalanta broke the deadlock from a Papu corner. It ricocheted around, Rafael Toloi volleyed it back into the middle for Bryan Cristante to drill home from seven yards.
SPAL lost Francesco Vicari to a calf injury and there was a strange moment when Federico Viviani’s free kick went in off the underside of the bar, but the referee had halted play already for pushing and shoving in the wall.
It should’ve been 2-0 straight after the restart, but Petagna sprung the offside trap on a Gomez cross only to turn the free header wide.
Paloschi flicked a corner on to the outside of the far post, but the flight of the ball had already taken it out of play. Federico Mattiello did get his finish on target from a Paloschi low cross, but Etrit Berisha performed a great reaction save.
At the other end, Papu missed a sitter, firing wide from the penalty spot, and it proved costly. Luca Rizzo scored a stunning equaliser with practically his first touch, curling in to the far top corner with his right foot from the left side of the area.
The evening got even worse for Atalanta when Remo Freuler had a very late and high tackle on Viviani. Fortunate not to break his leg, the referee viewed the incident on VAR before flashing the red card.
Viviani cut inside, his curler going just wide of the far post, but in stoppages SPAL poured forward. Rizzo pulled back to just inside the area for Viviani, who was denied by a fingertip Berisha save.
On the resulting corner, Antenucci’s sensational right-foot curler from the edge of the area smacked against the far post.
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Sent off: Freuler 69 (A)