STADIO OLIMPICO (ROME): Atalanta climbed to the top of Serie A with a 1-0 win over AS Roma on Sunday thanks to a first-half strike from Giorgio Scalvini, while furious Giallorossi coach Jose Mourinho was sent off in a heated match.
The 18-year-old struck the decisive blow after 35 minutes and Roma struggled to find an equaliser in the absence of chief creator Paulo Dybala, who pulled out injured in the warm-up.
Roma had the better chances but couldn’t find a way past Marco Sportiello, who came on early for the injured Juan Musso, and their frustration told when Mourinho saw red in the second half after running onto the pitch to protest a refereeing decision.
Atalanta are top with 17 points, now joined by Napoli after their 2-1 win away at AC Milan, while Roma slid to sixth and will be without Mourinho through suspension when they face the Portuguese’s former club Inter after the international break.
Roma’s nightmare start against Atalanta
The Giallorossi’s day got off to a bad start when in-form striker Dybala pulled out with a flexor injury in the warm-up, handing Nemanja Matic an unexpected starting role.
Another injury was the main talking point once the whistle blew, as Musso suffered a nasty clash of heads with teammate Merih Demiral and was forced off on a stretcher after receiving lengthy treatment.
Both sides struggled to create in a dull opening half hour, but Atalanta made their chance count when it came as Scalvini calmly steered a shot into the bottom corner for his second career goal, sparking the contest into life.
Appeals for a penalty were ignored after Demiral got a fistful of Nicolo Zaniolo’s shirt, but Roma then had a golden chance when Tammy Abraham beat the offside trap to go one-on-one with replacement goalkeeper Sportiello, only to nudge a tame finish wide.
Roger Ibanez’s effort was blocked by Sportiello’s legs and the keeper then stood tall to block a close-range Abraham effort to keep the Bergamaschi in front at the break.
Mourinho sent off, AS Roma boss furious with refereeing against Atalanta
Ten minutes into the second half, all hell broke loose. Zaniolo and substitute Caleb Okoli ran into the box shoulder to shoulder, each with a handful of the other’s shirt and it was the former who initiated the grabbing, and went down in a heap.
The home crowd screamed for a penalty, but when the decision was given against Roma, Mourinho ran onto the pitch protesting and earned a straight red card – resulting in the home crowd applauding their coach and signing his name in support.
Roma almost went further behind when Celik inadvertently deflected a Luis Muriel cross towards his own net, but Abraham was on hand to clear it off the line.
The hosts continued to push, with Zaniolo whipping a dangerous shot just over and substitute Eldor Shomurodov heading wide from seven yards, but they couldn’t find a way past Sportiello.