Real Madrid secures an incredible first-leg victory against an Atalanta side who were down to 10 men for over 70 minutes.
Zidane’s men got the job done in the end thanks to Mendy’s late goal but they didn’t exactly set the world alight. Atalanta will have to score in Madrid to progress.
Madrid will of course be happy with taking a one-goal lead home but given the situations, it’s tough not to feel that they should have worked harder to kill this tie off.
Atalanta didn’t convene a shot on target but still have something to play for after refusing to get blown away. That will buoy Gasperini’s men greatly.
Casemiro came closest in the first half with a header from a Toni Kroos free-kick just before the break that keeper Gollini saved with his chest.
After the restart, it was Vinicius who had the clearest chances to break the deadlock but finishing remains his weakness and when he put over the bar from six yards out Zidane turned to Mariano Diaz who replaced him on 57 minutes.
Atalanta had sat back with 10 men and Madrid had struggled to find a way through and on 76 minutes Isco and Marco Asensio made way for 19-year-old Sergio Arribas and 21-year-old Hugo Duro.
Still, the deadlock could not be broken. Kroos tried his luck from distance but failed to hit the target and then Casemiro went down in the box claiming a penalty.
The midfielder had gone down easily and when referee Stieler raced towards him it looked like a booking for diving would be shown.
Atalanta were just four minutes from earning what would have been a deserved draw but it was Mendy’s rushing run forward that brought about the first-half red card, and it would be his piledriver that won the match for Zidane’s team.
These two teams meet again in Madrid in three weeks then. With Atalanta expecting to attack in the second leg, let’s hope it’s a better game than this one turned out to be.