Atalanta fought back from a goal down in a fiery encounter to beat nine-man Sassuolo and qualify for the Champions League in third place.
La Dea went into the final 90 minutes of the season knowing a victory would secure third place and Champions League qualification, with a superior head-to-head record against Inter. Hans Hateboer was suspended with Rafael Toloi injured, so Jose Luis Palomino and Berat Djimsiti stepped in to defence, with Robin Gosens on the wing. Sassuolo missed Stefano Sensi, Giangiacomo Magnani, Federico Peluso, Khouma Babacar and Mauricio Lemos, but used Jeremie Boga and Mehdi Bourabia in more advanced roles.
Remo Freuler’s scorcher in the opening minutes flashed just wide and Gianluca Pegolo used his legs to parry a Papu Gomez strike from a tight angle.
It was one-way traffic from Atalanta, yet Sassuolo took the lead on the counter-attack. Alfred Duncan’s back-heel flick in the box was inspired, setting up Domenico Berardi to fire home relatively undisturbed from 12 yards.
The ‘hosts’ continued to pour forward, Papu Gomez seemingly having to score until a desperate Demiral block, then they did equalise when a set play was only cleared on to Duvan Zapata’s chest from point-blank range and ricocheted into the net.
Sassuolo kept pushing too, another Duncan assist finding Berardi unmarked from 12 yards, but Andrea Masiello threw himself in the path of the finish.
It was end-to-end stuff at the Mapei Stadium, whereby a quirk of fate both teams were technically at ‘home’, as Gomez’s angled drive shaved a coat of paint off the upright.
As the half-time whistle blew, a massive brawl broke out between both sets of players and even those on the bench. It culminated in a red card for Berardi, who unfortunately is not new to losing his temper and had to be dragged off the field by four teammates.
Atalanta weren’t going to look that gift horse in the mouth and went pouring forward, a Gomez angled drive skimming the woodwork.
Gomez then managed to turn a defender and whip a cross to the back post in one swift movement, finding the Mario Pasalic header at the back post. Incredibly, it took five minutes of VAR booth examination before play was allowed to resume, as they wanted to check several potential offside positions.
Sassuolo’s tension remained sky high and Francesco Magnanelli, who was involved in the start of that half-time brawl, was also dismissed with a second yellow card for dissent.
Roberto De Zerbi’s men didn’t give in, even down to nine men, as Djuricic got around Pierluigi Gollini and the cross-shot from a tight angle couldn’t quite find Duncan.
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Sent off: Berardi 45+5 (S), Magnanelli 83 (S)