Soccer-Szczesny heroics earn Juventus goalless draw at Atalanta

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2024 Qualifier - Group E - Poland v Faroe Islands - Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland - September 7, 2023 Poland's Wojciech Szczesny during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

(Reuters) - Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny put in a superb second-half performance to help the visitors secure a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Atalanta in Serie A on Sunday.

The Poland keeper made a stunning fingertip save late on to divert Luis Muriel's free kick onto the underside of the bar before the ball hit him on the back and went out for a corner.

Atalanta dominated most of the match, creating several chances, but could not break down Juve's well-drilled defence.

Juve are now fourth with 14 points, trailing leaders Inter Milan by four points, while Atalanta are fifth on 13 points.

Despite Juve's lacklustre performance in attack, manager Massimiliano Allegri was pleased with the result.

"I'm happy with the point and the performance," he told DAZN. "We could have been more accurate with the ball in the first half, but the lads did well, they were united. "Overall, we played well but were not too convincing when we attacked."

In the opening minutes, Atalanta's Davide Zappacosta had a double opportunity from the back post, first with a hasty shot from a cross and then firing the rebound went wide of the post.

Cheered on by an enthusiastic home crowd, Atalanta started the second half aggressively, with Ederson and Charles De Ketelaere coming close to breaking the deadlock.

Juve's sole clear second-half chance came when Federico Chiesa's curled shot was tipped over the bar by Juan Musso.

A Muriel shot later bounced off Szczesny's chest but Teun Koopmeiners could not keep his shot down from the rebound.

Koopmeiners missed a chance to snatch a last-minute win for Atalanta by shooting over the bar from 10 metres out.

Allegri praised Szczesny for bouncing back quickly after his mistakes in their 4-2 loss at Sassuolo last month.

"He is among the best in Europe, surely. He had a bad night against Sassuolo, but it can happen, and we didn’t lose because of him," Allegri said.

With Juve not in European competition this season, their last match before the international break is the "Derby della Mole" against Torino at home on Saturday.

"Torino don’t play European competition, like us, so we have a week to prepare for the derby," Allegri said.

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini regretted not winning but emphasised that their performance was encouraging.

"Considering, especially the second half, we would have deserved the victory, but we emerge stronger from this performance, with more confidence in ourselves and a squad that we can rely on," he told a press conference.

"Of course, there are regrets that we did not get three points, as it would have been a big step forward."

Atalanta will now focus on their Europa League group stage match at Sporting on Thursday before they visit Lazio in Serie A next Sunday.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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