Atalanta dent Napoli’s hopes of qualifying for UCL with 3-0 win

Napoli’s Champions League hopes took a huge blow with Saturday’s 3-0 home humbling by Atalanta as the outgoing Serie A title holders showed support for Juan Jesus after a racism controversy.

First-half goals from Aleksei Miranchuk and Gianluca Scamacca and a late Teun Koopmeiners strike boosted sixth-placed Atalanta’s own chances of a spot in Europe’s top club competition.

Francesco Calzona’s Napoli stay seventh and nine points behind Bologna who are fourth and currently in the final Champions League spot ahead of their home fixture with rock-bottom Salernitana on Easter Monday.

Napoli are also six points behind fifth-placed Roma with the capital club at Lecce on Monday and Italy in a good position to get an extra spot in next season’s revamped Champions League.

Both Roma and Bologna have to travel south for matches at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona before the end of the campaign, while Atalanta lurk a point behind Roma with a game in hand on their rivals.

Napoli’s players took the knee in support of their teammate Jesus during the pre-match playing of the Serie A anthem while fans shouted “no to racism” from the stands.

Jesus and Napoli were stunned by the Italian Football Federation’s disciplinary tribunal clearing Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi of racist abuse for lack of evidence.

Acerbi had been accused of directing a racial slur at Jesus during Napoli’s 1-1 draw at Inter before the international break, a claim the Italy defender denied.

Jesus started Saturday’s match but the Brazilian was at fault for Scamacca’s goal which put Atalanta two goals in front and gave Napoli a mountain to climb to reach the Champions League.

Napoli have had a dreadful time defending their third league title and didn’t do enough to merit anything more from Saturday’s match in the Spring sunshine.