Mario Pasalic scored twice to get Atalanta back to winning ways with a 3-0 Serie A victory in a Lombardy derby at Mario Balotelli’s struggling Brescia on Saturday.
Pasalic nodded in the opener on 26 minutes, before grabbing a second after an hour with Josip Illicic firing in a late third to end Atalanta’s four-match winless run in the league.
The Bergamo side, boosted by claiming their first ever Champions League win against Dinamo Zagreb in midweek, are now level on points with fourth-placed Cagliari and Roma, who play later this weekend.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side had not won in Serie A since their 7-1 victory over Udinese a month ago.
“There was a bit of fatigue, we were scraping the barrel in terms of energy,” said Gasperini.
“I shouted at the players a few times to try to spur them on to close down the game.
“The Champions League doesn’t detract, on the contrary it gives us a lot.
“We’re facing teams used to being protagonists in their championships, used to attacking.
“We’re more tired, but we are training at a higher level and getting used to it.”
Italy forward Balotelli returned to the Brescia line-up having being dropped last weekend for his lack of commitment in training.
But apart from hitting the crossbar on 55 minutes, Balotelli rarely threatened as the promoted side fell to their sixth consecutive defeat to stay rooted to the bottom of the table.
The match was the first since the publication of a letter on Friday signed by the country’s 20 top-flight clubs saying “basta” (that’s enough) to racism in Italian stadiums.
Balotelli has been targeted by racist abuse since returning to Italy to play for his hometown club this season.
Atalanta dominated, with Pasalic connecting with a Timothy Castagne cross to head in early on.
The midfielder then scored his fourth goal of the season, having also netted against Manchester City and Udinese, with a back-heel flick from an Ilicic cross.
Slovenian Ilicic broke through for the third two minutes into injury time.