Once known for their goals, Atalanta now focus on defense |

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ROME (AP) — Atalanta, the team that has drawn praise and admiration across Europe in recent seasons for its fluid attack and abundance of goals, relies more on its defense these days- this.

With Luis Muriel fresh from injury and strike partner Duván Zapata likely out for another month, Atalanta haven’t exactly looked like the unit that scored 98 goals a few years ago.

But with just three goals conceded in six games, unbeaten Atalanta are the best in the league in this department.

Still, Atalanta wasted a chance to reclaim the Serie A lead when they were held 1-1 at home by promoted Cremonese on Sunday.

The result left Atalanta, who are not playing in Europe for the first time since 2016-17, second but level on points with chef Napoli and AC Milan, third, defending champion.

With 14 points, Atalanta have never done better in six sets.

Elsewhere, Udinese moved into fourth place, one point behind the leaders, with a 3-1 win at Sassuolo for their fourth straight victory.

Cremonese defender Emanuele Valeri equalized in the 78th from a rebound for his first Premier League goal, four minutes after central defender Merih Demiral gave Atalanta the lead by redirecting a free kick from Teun Koopmeiners with a header.

“It’s a shame that we conceded this goal because of an error,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. “We mostly dominated.”

Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso couldn’t stop the shot that led to Cremonese’s equaliser.

“His main problem is playing with his feet,” Gasperini said. “He has always been an excellent goalkeeper between the posts but he is less sure of his feet. We are working on that.

Atalanta also had a goal disallowed by VAR after the hour mark when it was determined that Caleb Okoli used his hand to deflect a Koopmeiners free-kick.

Besides Demiral, who Atalanta bought from Juventus in June, Brazilian-born Italy international Rafael Tolói has been a mainstay in the Bergamo side’s defence. Okoli, centre-back for the Italy Under-21 side, is making his Serie A debut this season after spells at SPAL and Cremonese.

Cremonese, who were playing in the top division for the first time in 26 years, scored their first point last weekend against Sassuolo after opening the season with four straight defeats.

Atalanta produced twice as many shots as Cremonese (14-7) and dominated possession but struggled to find the frame.

Muriel appeared furious when he was sent off before the hour mark in favor of Rasmus Højlund, the 19-year-old striker Atalanta signed from Sturm Graz for 17 million euros ($17 million).

“When he’s not injured, he plays in every game,” Gasperini said of Muriel. “If he went to another team, I think he would play less. But I understand that after so many years (at this level) you can be dissatisfied. That’s one of the things that needs to be sorted out. »

Atalanta then travel to Rome.

Napoli beat Spezia 1-0 on Saturday and Milan won 2-1 at Sampdoria.

JUVENTUS FIGHTS

Juventus needed an injury-time equalizer from Leonardo Bonucci to secure a 2-2 draw with visiting Salernitana.

Bonucci scored on the rebound from his own penalty. Arkadiusz Milik then appeared to get the winner with a header but VAR erased the goal due to Bonucci being offside amid vehement protests from Juventus.

Antonio Candreva had put Salernitana ahead early on after Pasquale Mazzocchi dribbled past Weston McKennie to provide the cross.

Then Krzysztof Piątek doubled the lead with a penalty before the break after Gleison Bremer used his arm to deflect a shot from the Polish striker.

It was the first time since 2004 under Marcello Lippi that Juventus trailed a Serie A home game by two or more goals at half-time.

Bremer pulled one back for Juventus after the break with a soaring header.

Still unbeaten but with just two wins, Juventus moved up to eighth place, four points behind Napoli.

After losing their opening match at Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus receives Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

UNSTOPPABLE UDINESE

After humiliating José Mourinho’s Roma 4-0 last weekend, Udinese were up to the task again in Sassuolo at 10, where Portuguese striker Beto scored twice from the bench and Lazar Samardžić also found the net after Davide Frattesi gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Udinese are one point ahead of Inter Milan, who they host next weekend. The Friuli side’s only defeat came in their opening game in Milan.

Beto has four goals in six games.

BERLUSCONI’S MONZA

Silvio Berlusconi’s Monza secured their first-ever Premier League point with a 1-1 draw at Lecce that may have saved coach Giovanni Stroppa’s job.

A free-kick from Stefano Sensi put Monza ahead before Joan Gonzàlez equalized for Lecce.

AWESOME ARNAUTOVIĆ

In a regional clash, Bologna beat Fiorentina 2-1 with goals from Musa Barrow and Marko Arnautović in their first game since Siniša Mihajlović was sacked.

Youth team coach Luca Vigiani led Bologna for the game, with Thiago Motta taking over from Monday.

Austrian striker Arnautović tops the league scoring charts with six goals in six matches.

Moreover, Lazio beat Hellas Verona 2-0 with goals from Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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