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September 25, 2017

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Atalanta, Cagliari ease relegation fears

MILAN -- Atalanta and Cagliari took giant steps toward avoiding relegation by beating Chievo Verona and Catania respectively in Tuesday's rearranged Serie A games.

Maxi Moralez scored the only goal of the game to hand Atalanta a 1-0 win. The Argentine had a goal ruled out for offside in the first half.

Cagliari won 3-0 after Thiago Ribeiro put his team in front following a horrendous error from Catania goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano. Mauricio Pinilla doubled the lead and substitute Victor Ibarbo sealed the match in stoppage time.

The 33rd round of fixtures was postponed following the death of Piermario Morosini on April 14. Morosini — on loan from Udinese — collapsed and died after suffering cardiac arrest during Livorno's match at Pescara in Serie B.

There was a minute's silence held by the players in Bergamo, Morosini's hometown. Morosini had started his career in Atalanta's youth team and the fans applauded loudly in his memory as Elvis Presley's "Always on my mind" was played over the loudspeakers.

A picture of Morosini was shown on the giant screen along with the words "Goodbye Piermario, you will always remain in our hearts," while there were several banners with his name in the stands.

Atalanta thought it had taken the lead in the 15th minute when Moralez volleyed in Giacomo Bonaventura's cross but the Argentine was rightly judged to have been narrowly offside.

Chievo should have gone in front shortly before the half hour as a swift counterattack saw Cyril Thereau set up Sergio Pellissier, but the Chievo captain miscontrolled the ball and Atalanta goalkeeper Andrea Consigli saved his shot comfortably.

Atalanta almost took the lead on the stroke of halftime but Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino kept out Ezequiel Schelotto's swiveling volley at full stretch.

The home side nearly broke the deadlock in the 57th when Bonaventura feinted round Kamil Vacek and whipped in a fierce effort from the edge of the area which sailed narrowly wide of the left upright.

Atalanta went even closer 10 minutes later when top scorer German Denis — who has scored 15 goals this season — headed Carlos Carmona's cross wide from close range.

It finally scored when Schelotto cut the ball back to the onrushing Moralez, who whipped a brilliant right-footed shot across into the top left corner.

Bonaventura should have made sure of the victory five minutes from time but he headed Cristian Raimondi's cross narrowly wide.

Atalanta moves level on 43 points with Chievo, eight points off the drop zone. Cagliari has two points less.

The Sardinian side is playing its remaining home soccer matches nearly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away in Trieste because of a dispute with its city council over renovating its stadium.

Catania should have taken an early lead but Gonzalo Bergessio wasted a brilliant opportunity when he headed Giovanni Marchese's cross narrowly wide of the left upright.

Cagliari went in front in the 21st when no one connected with Pinilla's low cross in front of goal and the ball fell to Andrea Cossu, who cut it back to Ribeiro on the edge of the box. The Brazilian threaded a shot through a crowd of players and it crept into the bottom right corner.

Cagliari almost doubled its lead minutes before the break when Davide Astori's header was cleared off the line by Catania midfielder Francesco Lodi.

Ibarbo came off the bench in the 73rd minute and sealed the result with almost his first involvement as he raced down the left flank before crossing in for Pinilla to tap home.

Ibarbo got on the scoresheet in stoppage time following another swift counterattack as he sped toward the area and set up Daniele Conti, whose effort was parried back to the Colombian.

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