Real Madrid came through their tricky trip to Bergamo with a clean sheet and an away goal, defeating Atalanta 1-0 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, who played over 70 minutes of the game one-man down.
It was a positive start from the hosts, as expected. Robin Gosens jumped under a floated cross aimed his way at the back-post, as he looked to head in the opener in the first 10 minutes. It took Real a while to settle, playing with Isco as a ‘false-9′, their first set-piece was similar to Gosens’ chance minutes ago, Toni Kroos trying but failing to pick out Casemiro.
Isco hadn’t started a game for the Spanish side since the 8th of November, that was the day Madrid lost 4-1 to Valencia. But he was back and he combined well in parts with Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian looked lively, and it was his pass to put Ferland Mendy through on goal which led to the game-defining moment. The French left-back ran into that space vacated by Atalanta, and he was brought down by Remo Freuler – the referee gave him a straight red card. It was now backs to the wall for the hosts.
Nacho Fernandez grew into the game, the central defender carried the ball all the way into the opposition’s box, but in the end his shot-cum-cross didn’t concern the hosts too much. Isco and Vinicius then combined again, the Spaniard did well to continuously pick up small pockets of space, and with a quick angled pass, Vinicius was through though his shot was blocked.
The closest the Italians came in the opening 45 minutes was when Luis Muriel turned and had a sight of goal from the edge of the box, but his shot tamely rolled to Thibaut Courtois. And down the other end, Courtois’ opposite number was called into some serious action. Another Kroos free-kick, this time a point blank save from Pierluigi Gollini to deny Casemiro.
Real picked up in the second half from where they left off in the first, Luka Modric carved out the first opening, his shot eventually trickled passed the post as Gollini was rooted to his line. There were further chances for Madrid, but nothing too threatening to an Atalanta side which were composed and compact in their defensive unit. Gosens made a pivotal last-ditch block on the line to deny Vinicius a tap-in, but when the goal eventually came, it was a beauty.
A corner taken quickly and short by the 13-time champions, Modric passed to Ferland Mendy, who’s weak footed effort was a peach, leaving Gollini no chance at full-stretch. There may have been a second for the visitors, but Gosens was there again, first blocking Mariano Diaz and then Hugo Duro’s rebound. Nevertheless, with only 12 first team players available, to come to this part of Italy against this team and to escape with a 1-0 win is a good result for Real, who will have to play their second-leg without the suspended Casemiro, on 16th March at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Real Sociedad
When? Monday 1st March @ 22:00 CET
Where? Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano