Romero secures crucial point for Atalanta against Midtjylland

Cristian Romero grabbed the equaliser as Atalanta secured a 1-1 draw against Midtjylland on Tuesday, meaning the Italians will reach the Champions League last 16 if they avoid defeat at Ajax next week.

Romero headed in with 11 minutes to go after Alexander Scholz had put the already-eliminated Danes ahead in the 13th minute in Bergamo.

Atalanta are second in Group D, one point ahead of third-placed Ajax, who lost 1-0 at Liverpool, with the English champions wrapping up top spot.

Atalanta and Ajax will go head-to-head in Amsterdam on December 9 for a place in the knock-out stage.

"Of course we still need to qualify, but we have a small advantage over Ajax," said coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

"At the beginning we would have signed up to reach this point in the group with this standing.

"We'll try to make the most of it. It would be an achievement to progress."

Gasperini's side stunned Liverpool at Anfield last week, and had eased past the Danes 4-0 earlier in the campaign.

But they have not won at home this season in the Champions League, with their last success at the Gewiss Stadium coming in Serie A on October 4.

"In the first game we scored practically on all our chances, but tonight they changed something and made it difficult for us," said Gasperini.

"They started with an unprecedented formation, many defenders.

"It was to our credit to have come back."

- 'A bit of nervousness' -

Atalanta were wasteful in the first half, lacking precision in front of goal despite having 11 attempts before the break.

The hosts had three chances before Midtjylland captain Scholz opened the scoring, with Luis Muriel sending Duvan Zapata in on goal, only for his fellow Colombian to fire over.

The pair combined to tee up Hans Hateboer but the Dutch wing-back fired straight at visiting goalkeeper Jesper Hansen.

Captain Papu Gomez helped Zapata get in behind again, but his effort was easily saved by Hansen.

Midtjylland grabbed the lead, though, as Sory Kaba chested the ball down for Scholz to blast a fierce drive past a helpless Marco Sportiello.

Matteo Pessina struck a shot wide from a tight angle after half an hour, with Zapata and Muriel efforts lacking the power to beat Hansen.

Josip Ilicic replaced Gomez at half-time, before Gasperini made a triple change on 68 minutes with Amad Diallo replacing Muriel, and Marten de Roon and Rafael Toloi also coming off the bench.

But Robin Gosens and Zapata both blasted over with only the goalkeeper to beat, while 18-year-old Ivorian winger Diallo, who is set to join Manchester United in January, also missed two chances.

The pressure finally paid off, with Romero rising highest to meet a Hateboer cross, heading the ball past Hansen and into the corner.

The Argentine defender also wasted the opportunity for a last-gasp winner, heading over the bar just before the final whistle.

"Romero scored a beautiful goal, maybe I should try to put him in attack," said Gasperini.

"The team is doing very well in defence and midfield, while in attack we are struggling between poor fitness, lack of sharpness and a bit of nervousness up front.

"Playing so often takes something away from us, even mentally.

"They all played at a high level and it's not easy to play so often, without having time to recover."