BERGAMO, ITALY – FEBRUARY 24: Ferland Mendy of Actual Madrid celebrates after scoring his crew’s first … [+] purpose throughout the UEFA Champions League Spherical of 16 match between Atalanta and Actual Madrid at Gewiss Stadium on February 24, 2021 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photograph by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/High quality Sport Photos/Getty Photos)
Fingers on hips, Atalanta’s Remo Freuler stood in disbelief within the gamers tunnel. After 18 minutes, his match towards Actual Madrid had come to an abrupt finish. The Swiss defender was shocked: had he not merely checked the run of full-back Ferland Mendy? Maybe, however referee Tobias Stieler seen it in another way. He utilized a strict interpretation of the legislation and ship Freuler off with out hesitation for denying the Frenchman a goalscoring alternative.
Regardless of the interpretation of the legal guidelines of the sport, Freuler’s early exit was an inflection level within the match. Since successful its final European Cup in 2018, the Spanish membership did not progress from the spherical of sixteen, shedding to Ajax Amsterdam within the second spherical in 2019 and to Manchester Metropolis final 12 months. Atalanta ought to have been a harmful underdog, however not in a match disfigured by an early crimson card.
Traditionally, Actual Madrid and the Italian membership belong to completely different rings within the recreation. Madrid’s achievements want no repeating, however till final season Atalanta had by no means been in Europe’s prime competitors. Reaching the final eight of the Champions League, the crew coached by Gian Piero Gasperini grew to become the competitors’s fairytale, much more in order the Covid-19 pandemic raged in Bergamo and Italy. This season, they’re again within the knock-out part, proving they don’t seem to be a one-season surprise however a membership and crew that has fastidiously developed.
Atalanta sensed this match supplied a window of alternative to get forward within the tie dealing with a depleted opponent. Madrid has been fragile in each home and European competitors. Zinedine Zidane’s crew wanted a 2-0 win towards Borussia Monchengladbach to make sure its presence within the final sixteen. In Bergamo, Actual Madrid missed amongst others Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Federico Valverde and Rodrygo by damage. Zidane’s crew performed and not using a acknowledged striker. Isco featured within the quantity 9 position.
However the immediate dismissal of Freuler denied Atalanta an opportunity to storm Madrid’s protection. As a substitute, the host needed to modify with Matteo Pessina dropping deeper to bolster the midfield, however, even so, Actual Madrid slowly seized the initiative to take management of the match, creating hazard largely within the left channel. The visiting crew constructed stress, pushing Atalanta deeper and deeper.
On the stroke of half-time, Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini prevented Madrid from taking the lead with a pointblank save from Casemiro’s glancing header. The Brazilian’s probability was a portent of what was to return. Within the second half, the match was a one-way train with Madrid monopolizing possession and Atalanta defending deep in block. The Italians stored the traces compact and invited Madrid to use all their high quality to drive a breakthrough.
Madrid, nonetheless, was working low on concepts, one thing that has been a recurring theme this season. The crew camped within the last third of the sector, however lacked sharpness and the requisite finesse to select by a diligent Atalanta protection.
By no means hesitant to implement adjustments, Zidane gambled and introduced on children Hugo Duro and Sergio Arribas. Earlier, he had substituted Vinicius Junior, who was conspicuously wasteful in entrance of purpose.
Ultimately, a well-known identify received Madrid’s essential away purpose. Freuler had been proper in making an attempt to cease Mendy. Within the 86th minute, the Frenchman supplied a second of sheer brilliance to win the match. The complete-back curled a luxurious strike past the goalkeeper and into the highest nook. In the end, a mediocre Madrid broke Atalanta’s valiant resistance. Zidane’s males maintain the sting in tie now, however but once more they have been underwhelming.