Ferland Mendy scored a stunning late winner as Real Madrid clinched a hard-working last-16 first-leg victory against 10-man Atalanta.
Real looked like being left frustrated by a well-organized home side until Mendy curled in with four minutes left. Atalanta’s Remo Freuler was sent off after just 17 minutes for denying Mendy a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The depleted hosts did not have a single shot on target and now must score in the return leg on 16 March.
Real were without a number of key first-team players through injury including captain Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal and it showed for almost the entire contest. With Atalanta sitting back after Freuler’s early red card for a cynical trip on Mendy, Zinedine Zidane’s side failed to create clear-cut chances.
Isco, playing as the furthest man forward, saw a turn and shot deflect wide, while Marco Asensio’s header and free-kick were comfortable for Pierluigi Gollini to deal with. But with time running out, full-back Mendy earned his side a priceless away goal with a sublime curling effort from 25 yards to put Real in charge of the tie.
Atalanta will feel disappointed by conceding so late having displayed a solid defensive showing but remain without a victory at home in the Champions League this term. Zidane, meanwhile, will be eyeing a 13th knockout-tie triumph from 14 attempts after Real progressed from the group stages for a record 24th consecutive campaign.
‘We must win’ – what they said
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane: “They’re physically strong, and they did a great defensive job. It’s a good result for us and that’s the most important thing. I don’t think creativity is an issue as we scored, and didn’t concede. “We’ve got a lot of absentees but we’re on the right track, we’re strong defensively, didn’t give up any chances and got our away goal.”
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini: “It’s disappointing to not have been able to play this game as we wanted to. Down to 10 men, it was a different game. We had to defend, and we did it well. “We just have to win in Madrid. It’s easy – we can’t overthink, we just have one possibility. We must win.”
Atalanta games guarantee goals – the stats
- Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have won Champions League matches against 60 different teams – no side has won against more opponents in the competition.
- Real Madrid have won all five of their Champions League games in Italy under Zinedine Zidane, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
- Atalanta mustered just two shots in this match, both in the first half – their lowest in any game in the competition. This was also the first time they failed to have a shot on target in a Champions League match.
- None of Atalanta’s 16 Champions League games has ended goalless, while they remain the only team left in the last 16 yet to win a home game in the competition this term (D2 L2).
- Remo Freuler’s red card for Atalanta after 17 minutes was the fastest ever sending off for an Italian side in the Champions League.
- Ferland Mendy’s winner for Real Madrid was his first ever Champions League goal in his 20th appearance in the competition.