Real Madrid saved the honor of the Spanish teams, at least in the first leg of the round of 16. A solitary goal from Ferland Mendy, although rather: a goal from outside the area of the French side, ended up giving the victory to the whites against Atalanta who from minute 18 was with one less due to an expulsion of Freuler. [Narración y estadísticas: Atalanta 0-1 Real Madrid]
Zidane’s scheme varied due to casualties. Up to nine absences in the first white team for the trip to Bergamo, the last, and sensitive, that of a Benzema who is expected to be against Real Sociedad. But without the Frenchman, it was not Mariano from the game, but the coach opted for Isco.
The man from Malaga was not a starter since May 20, in the defeat against Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, but Isco passed the exam despite the lack of minutes so far this season. Ownership of Arroyo de la Miel and change in the system, saying goodbye to 4-3-3.
Real Madrid went out into the field concentrated. “Metido”, as Zidane likes to say so much. But that didn’t translate into goals in the first 45 minutes. The whites found an Atalanta also very well placed with Muriel and Zapata as their referents above.
Neither one tipped the balance, but it was Tobias Stieler who changed the course of the game in Bergamo. The referee, at 18 minutes, showed Freuler the red after he knocked down Ferland Mendy in the front of the area. The play opens the debate, but this did not exist for the referee, who interpreted that he had ended with a goal option for the left-handed side of Real Madrid.
The foul was charged by Isco, but the playmaker crashed the ball into the wall. The rejection was caught by a Lucas Vázquez who did not think about it to arm his leg and ended up sending the ball to the clouds. Five minutes later, it was Casemiro who was booked, although in his case to see the yellow card. But it is not one more yellow, since that innocent foul in the center of the field makes the second leg miss.
The bad luck for Atalanta did not end with the expulsion, then came the injury of Zapata, one of the referents of his attack. And, precisely, attacking was what Real Madrid did after the 30th minute. Isco, Modric, Vinicius and Asensio enjoyed different opportunities in a row, but all of them with the same result: the ball without entering Gollini’s goal.
Atalanta responded with a low shot from Muriel that was narrowly deflected, although it was Gollini who had to use himself thoroughly, before the break, to prevent his team from going behind on the scoreboard to the changing rooms. The goalkeeper appeared to deflect Varane’s point-blank shot after a perfect free kick by Kroos. German reliability.
Without changes, the two teams jumped onto the pitch at the restart. Real Madrid did not take long to bring danger to the opposite area. It was Modric who tried to surprise the outside, but a defender deflected his shot. And it was the Croatian who soon after hung a ball into the area, directed at Vinicius, who intercepted Toloi in time to avoid the merengue goal.
Again Vinicius had the goal and again he made a mistake sending the ball up with everything in his favor. The targets did not hit the key and Zidane decided then to move the alert. He placed the French at a ‘9’ reference in the field. Mariano entered the green for a Vinicius who touched the goal, but failed to see the door in the almost hour of the game he played.
And if Real Madrid did not find the goal, Courtois became a mere spectator of the game from the other side of the field. The white team needed a solution, and quickly, and this was none other than two homegrown players. Turn for Arribas and Hugo Duro, so that Isco and Asensio left the match.
With 0-0 and Atalanta with one less, the match entered its last ten minutes. The Italians well positioned in the field and Real Madrid without finding a hole through which to do damage. Modric and Kroos were thus encouraged from afar, but without putting Gollini in trouble.
The game faded like the rhythm of Zidane’s men and it was then, when they least expected it, the moment in which Ferland Mendy appeared to score a real goal with a shoe from outside the area, surprising Gollini, Atalanta and almost even his teammates, who celebrated the goal in style. Like a Zidane who could not suppress the smile from the band.
Thus, Real Madrid takes a slight advantage for the second leg at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. The tie is very open and everything can happen in a match in which Casemiro, the best of the meringues in Bergamo, will not be, but in which it is expected that some of the now injured will be.