Atalanta Regret as Real Madrid Seal Precious UCL Away Victory

Atalanta welcomed European giants Real Madrid to Bergamo for the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16. They ended up defeated by one, but not without holding their own despite being forced to play with one man less for most of the game.

On the back of an impressive win over Napoli on the weekend, Gian Piero Gasperini kept faith in the same 11. Impressive Colombian strikers Luis Muriel and Duván Zapata having both scored in the victory looked to add to their current goal tallies. Newcomer Joakim Maehle, having arrived in January, kept his place at right wing back and Italian rising star Matteo Pessina – who is looking to catch the eye of national coach Roberto Mancini – was deployed behind the strikers to provide them with the ammunition they needed.

The visitors were without key names Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos, and Dani Carvajal. Still, coach Zinedine Zidane had the tried and trusted midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić and Casemiro to call on as the Spanish team looked to get something from the first leg. The bench was made up of 6 academy graduates as Los Blancos faced the tough task of taking on one of Serie A’s form teams.

The opening exchanges between the two sides were tense and controlled with no side wanting to give away an early goal. It was not long though before there was action.

Los Blancos made a quick break with Vinícius Júnior, who dropped to the left hand side and threaded a ball through for the onrushing Ferland Mendy. Central midfielder Remo Freuler came across to cover and felled the Frenchman on the edge of the box. Referee Tobias Stieler was on the scene in a flash and showed a straight red card for the Atalanta man.

Not long after came the second blow of the night for the home side when Duván Zapata was forced off with a suspected knee injury to be replaced by Mario Pašalić to shore up the midfield. The striker was seen wrapped up in a coat with a large ice bag round his left knee.

Neither side were able to create a clear cut opportunity until the dying minutes of the first half when an inswinging cross from the left from Toni Kroos was met by Raphael Varane, who forced Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini into a smart reaction stop in the middle of his goal.

Luka Modrić came within a whisker of opening the scoring early in the second half. A good approach play by Marco Asensio on the right hand side of the box created the space for the Croatian midfielder to move into, but his stabbed effort was deflected just wide of the post.

Atalanta though kept it tight for large spells of the second half, keeping Real Madrid at bay and preventing their counterparts from creating any real chances until Ferland Mendy came up with a moment of magic.

A corner was worked short from Kroos to Modrić who in turned squared for the French fullback on the edge of the box. Mendy worked the ball to his right foot and nudged it forward before striking a shot that kept low as it flew just past the outstretched hand of Gollini to give his side a precious away goal.

After so much time defending, the home side had no energy left to get themselves up the pitch and Los Blancos held out easily to secure the victory.

Atalanta next face Sampdoria away on Sunday morning while Real Madrid will not be in action till Monday night when they host Basque side Real Sociedad.



February 24, 2021 – Champions League 2020-21 Round of 16

SCORER: 86′ Mendy

ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle (86′ Palomino), De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina; Muriel (56′ Ilicic, 87′ Malinovskyi), Zapata (31′ Pasalic) (Rossi, Sportiello, Palomino, Sutalo, Lammers, Caldara, Ruggeri, Miranchuk) Coach: Gasperini
REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Vinicius (59′ Mariano Diaz), Isco (77′ Hugo Duro), Asensio (76′ Arribas) (Lunin, Altube, Blanco, Chust, Gutierrez) Coach: Zidane

REFEREE: Stielere (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Gosens (A), Casemiro, Mendy (R); Red Card: Freuler (A); Extra Time: First Half 3′, Second Half 3′