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Written By Onyeka Daniel

To say that Bologna has been one of the most impressive teams in the Serie A this season will not be so far from the truth as the Rossoblu have proved on different occasions that they’ve what it takes to go toe to toe with any team and get a result.

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After losing their opening game of the season to AC Milan at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, they haven’t looked back since then, getting positive results against the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Inter (draw) and also defeating Lazio and most Roma and Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia round of 16.

They’ve since followed it up with another win against Atalanta, which helped them consolidate the fourth place and closed the gap on Milan in third, thanks to a Lewis Ferguson header. Thiago Motta’s men were on a roll, climbing into fourth place beating Roma last week and then knocking holders Inter out of the Coppa Italia in extra time on Wednesday at San Siro.

This was another showdown for Europe and the injury list was shrinking to just Jesper Karlsson and Adama Soumaoro. La Dea missed Rafael Toloi, Jose Luis Palomino and El Bilal Toure, but Gianluca Scamacca returned to the bench ahead of schedule. Ademola Lookman was sent clear on the counter by Charles De Ketelaere only to hit the side-netting one-on-one with Lukasz Skorupski.


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Saelemaekers just failed to reach a cross under pressure from Hans Hateboer and Teun Koopmeiners nodded a De Ketelaere cross over the bar. Bologna lost Dan Ndoye to a suspected hamstring strain and on the stroke of half-time Atalanta had a huge opportunity when Lookman sent Ederson through, denied only by brave Skorupski goalkeeping. The pair combined again moments later, Lookman firing over from a tricky angle.

Giovanni Fabbian came on at half-time and threatened immediately, his half-volley over from the edge of the area. However, Remo Freuler needed an absolutely crucial interception with his toes to take the Lookman roll across away from Koopmeiners for what would’ve been the simplest of tap-ins. De Ketelaere stung Skorupski’s hands from distance and Lookman skimmed the upright with a daisy-cutter, but Zirkzee set it on a plate for Fabbian to blast over from 12 yards in a well-worked passing move.

Ferguson and Luis Muriel turned off target from promising positions, but the deadlock was finally broken when Orsolini – returning after a month out – curled a corner onto the head of relatively undisturbed Ferguson at the far post. It is the sixth consecutive home win for Bologna, during which they conceded only one goal. Motta admits ‘this has been a fantastic week for Bologna’ after beating Roma, Inter and Atalanta, but warns they are ‘not even halfway through the season.’

“Atalanta are a great team, who for seven or eight years have competed with Milan, Juventus, Napoli for the top spots. If you let them play, they will take control, have physicality, technique, organisation,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia. They are the form team in Italy right now, having defeated Roma 2-0 in Serie A, then coming back from a goal down to knock Inter out of the Coppa Italia in extra time on Wednesday, followed by this 1-0 result against Atalanta.

“I think this has been a fantastic week for Bologna, as we beat Roma, after two days we played 120 minutes at San Siro and won. We returned home at 4am, then a couple of days later played again. These lads have fantastic spirit, it was so difficult to win this match today, but they interpreted the situations very well.

“At times, the dynamics of the game were going towards Atalanta too much, we made a few changes over half-time and the match was far more balanced from then on. They tried to make the most of our errors, we ran some risks with Lookman on the counter-attack, but my lads believed and fought to the end, so overall deserved the victory because of that spirit.

“I can only praise my players, as they were fantastic yet again.” It not only consolidated fourth place, but took them closer to Milan in third, who were yesterday held to a 2-2 draw by Salernitana. “It is a good moment for Bologna, but from tomorrow that is in the past and we can only focus on the present. That means first of all resting over Christmas with our families, the lads deserved that, and then we can prepare in the best way for the trip to Udine.

“We are not even halfway through the season, there’s no point making suggestions about what could happen. We just have to keep working the way we are now.” The manager was also asked about some of the tactical tweaks that surprised Atalanta, as Riccardo Calafiori regularly cut inside from the left, while Jhon Lucumi was tracking Teun Koopmeiners.

“My players have this tactical intelligence, so they can look at each other and understand which is the right moment to go where. They had this freedom to move around, still respecting our organisation, and they did it very well.” He further added.

Meanwhile…

Atalanta Manager, Gian Piero Gasperini explains why Motta’s tactical approach for Bologna ‘causes everyone problems’ and Atalanta need to work on their set-play deficiencies. This was a huge opportunity for La Dea to get back into the race for the Champions League spots, but they were the latest team to be beaten at the Stadio Dall’Ara.

“This is football, it happens. Bologna are in a great period of form, we played well and didn’t take our chances, then this goal was conceded on a corner,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia. “We’ve been on the losing end in these situations too many times, so evidently we have a problem defending on set plays and many of the points we dropped were in these scenarios.

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“We have more corners in favour than against generally, so we ought to be better at this. Perhaps in a match situation, it’s not the same as in training. “When games are in the balance, a dead-ball situation can make the difference. Just look at Roma, Juventus, Milan, they all use that kind of aerial power to find the breakthrough. We used to be good at it too, but recently we’ve been on the losing side of those battles and that penalises us.

“There were several good scoring opportunities today, but we must also look at the positive aspects, as it was a good performance. That only gives us even more regret to have lost.” Thiago Motta was a midfielder at Gasperini’s Genoa, so there must also be some pride seeing him flourish as a coach. “His approach is more about possession, he lifts the centre-backs playing out from the back and tries to create numerical superiority with their presence.

“It is not easy to play against Bologna because they have this way of controlling the game, but we did well to take it away from them for a while. “We took away their greatest strength and built the performance towards a victory, only to then lose it on a dead-ball situation. Bologna cause everyone problems because of that tactical approach.”

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