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SPAL tops Atalanta 2-0, now 2nd in Serie A table

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SPAL finished 17th last season, just three points above the drop, but Serie A minnows SPAL may have turned things around.

23-year-old AC Milan youth product Andrea Petagna scored a pair within six minutes of each other soon after halftime, and that was all SPAL needed as they topped Atalanta 2-0 at Stadio Paolo Mazza. Atalanta held 57% possession, but couldn’t find a way through, only able to put one of its 13 shots on frame.

The win moved SPAL to second in the Serie A table, level with Napoli on points but ahead by three goals on differential, with Napoli on a 0 goal differential thanks to its baffling 3-0 loss at Sampdoria two weekends ago. Through four matches, SPAL has conceded just a single goal, coming in last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Torino, their only blemish so far this season.

The victory marked SPAL’s first match back in its home ground, which had been renovated to increase capacity to 16,000 which was the minimum to host Serie A matches. They had been playing home matches at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in nearby Bologna, the usual home site for fellow Serie A side Bologna FC. Last season’s 17th placed finish was the club’s first campaign in the top flight since 1968.

SPAL and Napoli still sit three points back of eight-time defending champions Juventus, who are on a perfect 12 points through four matches. SPAL visits Fiorentina next weekend.

Pastore scores incredible back-heel in wild Serie A match

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Just two minutes into Monday’s match, Roma found itself in front of Serie A opponents Atalanta thanks to a moment of brilliance from former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Javier Pastore.

Having just joined Roma this summer from the French top flight, Pastore earned his second Serie A start and put it to good use. An expert cross from 21-year-old Turkish international Cengiz Under was whipped in on his left foot, and Pastore audaciously attempted to back-heel the ball into the net. He directed it towards the far post, and left Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini with no chance as he scrambled back attempting to collect the slow-roller.

The match took many twists and turns after this incredible start. Atalanta would shockingly go 3-1 up before halftime on a brace from Emiliano Rigoni and one more by Timothy Castagne. Roma would then come back to even things up with a pair of second-half goals to earn a point. Overall, there were an insane 48 shots in the match split between the two teams, with 16 of them on target. Expected goals put the predicted final score at 2.3-2.0, an impressively high total for that statistic.

The draw put both teams on four points, impressive for Atalanta as they also navigate a campaign through the Europa League. They sit two back of the three unblemished sides Juventus, Napoli, and SPAL.

Pjanic’s penalty seals Juve’s spot in Italian Cup final

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ROME (AP) Miralem Pjanic scored a controversial penalty as Juventus beat visiting Atalanta 1-0 Wednesday to reach the Italian Cup final.

[ MORE: U.S. World Cup 2026 bid in jeopardy with Morocco gaining ground ]

It appeared that Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi was only slightly touched from behind by Gianluca Mancini while attempting to meet a cross in the 74th.

But the referee’s decision was confirmed by the VAR and Pjanic converted into the center of the net as goalkeeper Etrit Berisha leaped to his right.

Juventus advanced 2-0 on aggregate following Gonzalo Higuain’s goal in the first leg.

Higuain sat out the second leg due to a minor injury.

In the May 9 final, Juventus will face either Lazio or AC Milan, who were playing later in Rome following a 0-0 first leg.

Juventus has won the Italian Cup a record 12 times, including the last three years.

After a first half in which Juventus seemed content to protect its first-leg advantage and Atalanta produced little, the match came to life midway through the second half when both sides hit the goalframe.

A long lob from Atalanta’s Alejandro “Papu” Gomez hit the post following a defensive error by Medhi Benatia.

Gomez then blasted another dangerous effort over the crossbar before Juve’s Douglas Costa curled a long shot off the bar just minutes later.

Juventus was also slated to host Atalanta in Serie A on Sunday but that match was snowed out and will be made up March 14.

Snow also fell during Wednesday’s game but it did not stick to the pitch.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Europa League preview: Arsenal joined by Champions League outcasts

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League is looking more and more like it will require a Europa League triumph, and that trek continues in Sweden on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Ronaldo, Real top PSG 3-1 ]

There are plenty of other big names left in the Europa League, with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, and Atletico Madrid also beginning Round of 32 ties on Thursday.

Ostersund vs. Arsenal

Arsene Wenger‘s men will tangle with an Ostersund side which has some impressive European wins under its belt.

Drawing Galatasaray in the second qualifying round, Ostersund won 3-1 on aggregate before beating Luxembourg’s Fola Esch by the same score in the third qualifying round and getting by PAOK on away goals in the playoff.

Ostersund was also a surprise second place team in a group with Hertha Berlin, Zorya Luhansk, and group-winning Athletic Bilbao, and did not lose at home. This won’t be easy for the Gunners, who will hope to pile up away goals.

Midfielder Ken Sema is the player to watch for the Allsvenskan side. Arsenal will not have ineligible Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as injured Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, and Petr Cech.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta

Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi‘s fast friendship gets a Europa League test from Serie A visitors Atalanta, which has dropped to eighth in Serie A this season after selling Franck Kessie in the offseason. 22-year-old Italian striker Bryan Cristante is the club’s leading scorer, and longtime Fiorentina man Josip Ilic isn’t far behind the youngster.

Full schedule
Red Star Belgrade 0-0 CSKA Moscow — Tuesday

11 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Sporting Lisbon

1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta
Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao
Marseille vs. Braga
Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. AC Milan

3:05 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. RB Leipzig
Lyon vs. Villarreal
Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Partizan Belgrade vs. Viktoria Plzen
Copenhagen vs. Atletico Madrid
AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Steaua Bucuresti vs. Lazio