Once known for their goals, Atalanta now rely on defense

ROME (AP) — Atalanta, the team that has drawn praise and admiration across Europe in recent seasons for its fluid attack and abundance of goals, relies more on its defense these days- this.

With Luis Muriel fresh from injury and strike partner Duván Zapata likely out for another month, Atalanta haven’t exactly looked like the unit that scored 98 goals a few years ago.

But with just three goals conceded in six games, unbeaten Atalanta are among the league’s best in this department, with only Juventus (two goals) having conceded less.

Atalanta’s Luis Muriel, left, and Cremonese’s Vlad Chiriches battle for the ball during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Atalanta and Cremonese at the Gewiss stadium in Bergamo, Italy on Sunday September 11, 2022. (StefanoNicoli/ LaPresse via AP)

Still, Atalanta wasted a chance to reclaim the Serie A lead when they were held 1-1 at home by promoted Cremonese on Sunday.

The result left Atalanta, who are not playing in Europe for the first time since 2016-17, second but level on points with leaders Napoli and third-placed defending champions AC Milan.

With 14 points, Atalanta have never done better in six sets.

Elsewhere, Udinese moved into fourth place, one point behind the leaders, with a 3-1 win at Sassuolo for their fourth straight win.

Cremonese defender Emanuele Valeri equalized in the 78th from a rebound for his first Premier League goal, four minutes after centre-back Merih Demiral put Atalanta ahead by redirecting a Teun Koopmeiners free kick with a header.

“It’s a shame that we conceded this goal because of an error,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. “We mostly dominated.”

Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso couldn’t stop the shot that led to Cremonese’s equaliser.

“His main problem is playing with his feet,” Gasperini said. “He has always been an excellent goalkeeper between the posts but he is less sure of his feet. We are working on that.

Atalanta also had a goal disallowed by VAR after the hour mark when it was determined that Caleb Okoli used his hand to deflect a Koopmeiners free-kick.

Besides Demiral, who Atalanta bought from Juventus in June, Brazilian-born Italy international Rafael Tolói has been a mainstay in the Bergamo side’s defence. Okoli, centre-back for the Italy Under-21 side, is making his Serie A debut this season after spells at SPAL and Cremonese.

Cremonese, who were playing in the top division for the first time in 26 years, scored their first point last weekend against Sassuolo after opening the season with four straight defeats.

Atalanta produced twice as many shots as Cremonese (14-7) and dominated possession but struggled to find the frame.

Muriel appeared furious when he was sent off before the hour mark in favor of Rasmus Højlund, the 19-year-old 6ft 4in (1.92m) striker whom Atalanta signed from Sturm Graz for 17million euros ($17 million).

“When he’s not injured, he plays in every game,” Gasperini said of Muriel. “If he went to another team, I think he would play less. But I understand that after so many years (at this level) you can be dissatisfied. That’s one of the things that needs to be sorted out. »

Atalanta then travel to Rome.

Napoli beat Spezia 1-0 on Saturday and Milan won 2-1 at Sampdoria.

Later, Juventus welcomed Salernitana.


Bologna’s Marko Arnautovic, right, and Fiorentina’s Pietro Terracciano battle for the ball during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Fiorentina and Bologna at Renato Dall’Ara stadium in Bologna, Italy on Sunday 11th September 2022. (Michele Nucci/LaPresse via PA)

After humiliating José Mourinho’s Roma 4-0 last weekend, Udinese were up to the task again in Sassuolo at 10, where Portuguese striker Beto scored twice from the bench and Lazar Samardžić also found the net after Davide Frattesi gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Udinese are one point ahead of Inter Milan, who they host next weekend. The Friuli side’s only defeat came in their opening game in Milan.

Beto has four goals in six games.


Silvio Berlusconi’s Monza secured their first-ever Premier League point with a 1-1 draw at Lecce that may have saved coach Giovanni Stroppa’s job.

A free-kick from Stefano Sensi put Monza ahead before Joan Gonzàlez equalized for Lecce.


In a regional clash, Bologna beat Fiorentina 2-1 with goals from Musa Barrow and Marko Arnautović in their first game since Siniša Mihajlović was sacked.

Youth team coach Luca Vigiani led Bologna for the game, with Thiago Motta taking over from Monday.

Austrian striker Arnautović tops the league scoring charts with six goals in six matches.


More AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Christy J. Olson