Tammy Abraham struck twice as Roma ran out 4-1 winners at fancied Atalanta on Saturday, in the biggest win for Jose Mourinho since returning to Serie A.
English striker Abraham opened the scoring with less than a minute on the clock at the Gewiss Stadium and rounded off the match late on as Roma closed the gap between them and the Champions League places to five points.
“What a win, what else can I say? A lot of people doubted us today but this is by far one of the best wins we’ve had this season,” said Abraham to DAZN.
“We needed to win and what a win.”
Nicolo Zaniolo and Abraham’s countryman Chris Smalling also netted in an impressive win, their first against one of Italy’s top teams this season, which took them fifth and dented third-place Atalanta’s burgeoning title hopes.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side sit third, six points behind champions and league leaders Inter Milan who crushed Salernitana 5-0 on Friday.
They will drop to fourth if Napoli win at fellow title-chasers AC Milan on Sunday following a defeat in which they dominated proceedings for large spells but were punished by Roma who were clinical in a classic Mourinho style.
Roma’s goals came from five shots on target after having less than 30 percent possession and no corners.
“There was a great spirit. It’s clear that playing against Atalanta you can never be in control of the match for 90 minutes… the team was great in every department today,” said Mourinho, who won the treble with Inter in 2010.
“I think Inter are on another level to everyone else but to beat the top teams like Milan, Napoli and Atalanta you can’t just have good organisation or tactics, you need a certain type of character which we had today.”
Smash and grab
Roma took the lead in an odd fashion when, after charging into the box, Abraham poked a close-range finish which looped high off Marten de Roon and into the net.
The away side were pinned back in their own area for long periods but, like Villarreal who performed their own smash-and-grab in Bergamo a few days ago, Roma struck on the breakthrough the marauding Zaniolo to double their lead against the run of play in the 27th minute.
It was the Italy’s forward’s first Serie A goal since July last year.
Atalanta continued to push and got back into the game in first-half stoppage time when substitute Luis Muriel’s low drive took a wild deflection off Bryan Cristante and left Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio with no chance.
And the home fans thought they were set to witness a grandstand finish in the 68th minute when Duvan Zapata’s flick was touched home but Jose Luis Palomino was ruled offside by VAR after challenging for the ball with Cristante.
The decision infuriated Gasperini who raged to DAZN that the referee told him a Palomino goal had been ruled out even though the Argentine had not, in fact, touched the ball.
“If Palomino didn’t touch the ball, then why is it offside? If Cristante got the ball, then what difference does it make?” he asked.
“We would then have been level with 20 minutes to go, it’s a very different game.”
Four minutes later Smalling hit Atalanta with a sucker punch, meeting Jordan Veretout’s superb free-kick to jab home the third from close range.
Abraham made it six league goals for the season with eight minutes remaining, lashing home a powerful first-time finish after Veretout’s blocked shot fell to him perfectly in shooting range.
Juventus aim to get their season back up and running again later on Saturday as they travel to Bologna, while Cagliari try to get out of the relegation zone when they host Udinese in the day’s late match.