MILAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini denied slapping an official from opponents Sampdoria in the tunnel after he was sent off during his side's 2-1 win in Serie A on Sunday.
A livid Gasperini, ordered from the touchline at Sampdoria's Luigi Ferraris stadium for protesting about a penalty awarded to the home side, reported afterwards that, as he walked down the tunnel, Sampdoria club secretary Massimo Ienca was in his way.
"I know Ienca well, he was in front of me and blocking the passageway. I just nudged him aside," Gasperini told the post-match press conference. "That is what happened -- the rest is just a big song and dance."
However, Sampdoria gave a different version. "There was no song or dance or provocation," said club director Antonio Romei. "There are witnesses who told me it was a slap. The federation will do its job."
Duvan Zapata gave Atalanta the lead five minutes after halftime with his 17th goal of the season before Sampdoria were awarded the penalty in the 67th minute when Gaston Ramirez went down under a challenge from Alejandro Gomez.
It seemed a soft penalty and Gasperini was incensed that the referee did not review it on the pitchside monitor.
Fabio Quagliarella converted for his 20th goal of the season, making him Serie A's leading scorer, but Atalanta took the points when Robin Gosens turned the ball in from a narrow angle in the 77th minute.
The win kept Atalanta seventh on 44 points, six adrift of the Champions League places.
"We need to keep a very close eye on some episodes in the zone around the Champions League places because, with the race so close, they could make a great difference," said Gasperini.
Torino also moved on to 44 points in sixth place after two second-half goals from Andrea Belotti gave them a 2-1 win at next-to-bottom Frosinone. (Writing by Brian Homewood Editing by Ian Chadband)