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Bologna close in on Euro spots at Atalanta, Cremonese send Samp towards drop

Bologna hit two past Atalanta to close in European qualification. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Bologna increased their hopes of European football for the first time this century with Saturday’s impressive 2-0 win at Atalanta, while Sampdoria are heading towards relegation from Serie A after a late defeat by Cremonese.

Smart second-half finishes from Nicola Sansone and Riccardo Orsolini moved eighth-placed Bologna to within five points of Atalanta, who sit sixth and in Serie A’s Europa Conference League spot.

That place in Europe’s third-tier club competition will drop down to seventh, currently occupied by Juventus, if a team already qualified for continental football wins the Italian Cup.

Of the six teams currently in the European places, Inter Milan are the only one in the semi-finals of the cup.

Bologna have not featured in a major European competition since reaching the third round of the UEFA Cup in 1999 but are in fine fettle with nine matches remaining.

Atalanta could have taken fourth place from Inter Milan on goal difference with a win but are now looking over their shoulders at Juventus, who are four points behind the Bergamo outfit and at Lazio later on Saturday.

Thiago Motta’s team are two points ahead of Fiorentina, whose winning run ended at nine matches after M’Bala Nzola’s 13th goal of the season gave Spezia a 1-1 draw in Florence.

However the away side would have taken an even bigger step towards safety had Eldor Shomurodov not wasted a colossal opportunity to snatch the points in stoppage time.

The Uzbekistan international won a tackle with Alfred Duncan before bursting clean through on goal, and with only Pietro Terracciano to beat and a teammate bursting up in support to his right, he sent a limp chip straight into the arms of the Fiorentina goalkeeper.

Late strikes from Luka Lochoshvili and Leonardo Sernicola gave Cremonese just their second win of the season in dramatic style and left distraught Samp bottom of the division.

Samp had been leading 2-1 with five minutes to go through headed goals from Mehdi Leris and Sam Lammers but Sernicola’s beautiful finish in the fifth minute of stoppage time left the home side 11 points behind Spezia, who sit just outside the drop zone.

Promoted Cremonese are 10 behind Spezia and are still likely set to drop straight back down to Serie B.

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