Hans Hateboer’s header gave Atalanta a hard-fought win that put them one point off the Champions League spots, but Cagliari hit the bar in stoppages.
The Orobici were on sparkling form and a win would put them in joint fifth place with Lazio and Roma, just a point off Milan, just days after knocking Juventus out of the Coppa Italia with a 3-0 triumph. Josip Ilicic missed out with a hip injury, so Mario Pasalic took over. Cagliari had to do without Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Cerri, Fabrizio Cacciatore, Bradaric, Lucas Castro and suspended Italy international Nicolò Barella.
These sides had already met last month here in the Coppa, Atalanta emerging with two late goals.
Paolo Faragò audaciously spotted the goalkeeper off his line and tried a lob from the centre-circle, which floated just wide of the empty net.
Valter Birsa went off with a very unusual injury, as Jose Luis Palomino went into a diving header and bumped the Cagliari midfielder, apparently hard enough to fracture his forearm and he was taken to hospital for X-Rays.
Alessio Cragno parried a glancing Mario Pasalic header from a corner and in a similar situation Djimsiti nodded just wide of the near post.
Papu Gomez saw a free kick palmed over the bar, but Atalanta finally found a way through after the restart.
A Timothy Castagne cross from the left found Hans Hateboer for a header at the back post, though Cagliari felt that Simone Padoin was impeded by the crowd of Atalanta players lining up to meet it.
Cagliari fought back immediately, as Joao Pedro flicked the ball over one defender, sprinted past the second and pulled back for Leonardo Pavoletti at the near post, forcing a desperate Etrit Berisha save.
Moments later, a Faragò at full stretch couldn’t get enough on the through ball to surprise the goalkeeper. Atalanta had the ball in the net again after a free kick was taken short and Remo Freuler cross-shot deflected in from a tight angle off Filippo Romagna, but the offside flag was already up.
Luca Pellegrini, on loan from Roma, also came on for his first appearance in a Rossoblu jersey and immediately his taut cross wreaked havoc in the box.
Cragno had his gloves stung by Pasalic and Ilicic strikes from the edge of the area, but Thereau limped off with a muscular problem after all the substitutions had been completed, so Cagliari were down to 10 men for the last five minutes.
Nonetheless, the Sardinians almost equalised in stoppages when Alessandro Deiola’s looping header from a corner left Berisha stranded only to bounce off the crossbar.
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