Mendy's late strike puts Real Madrid around the corner of CL quarters

February 25, 2021 Sports
Ferland Mendy put Real Madrid within touching length of the Champions Group quarter-finals on Wednesday with the overdue strike that sank 10-man Atalanta 1-0 in Bergamo.

The French left-back's curling effort came four a few minutes from time in a final 16, first leg clash where the hosts had to play a guy down for over 70 moments, supplying Zinedine Zidane's side the benefit heading in to the second leg in Madrid on March 16.

"We didn't have a great game tonight, but the most important thing was the effect, scoring away was important for us," said Zidane.
"It's a good result against an Atalanta staff even at 10, because they defended perfectly.

"The tie is available. We are going to have an excellent return match."

Atalanta had attacked early but the game was first transformed when Swiss midfielder Remo Freuler was harshly send off found in the 17th moments for tripping Mendy in the advantage of the penalty spot.

Gian Piero Gasperini's woes continued with forwards Duvan Zapata limping off just after around 30 minutes with a muscular difficulty with midfielder Mario Pasalic returning off the bench.

"The game was ruined," said Gasperini.

"I don't really know what would have happened 11 against 11.
"I merely got banned for saying something in Serie A, if I say something nowadays then UEFA will ban me personally. But that is football suicide.

"Enough of these referees who've hardly ever played a game and do not know the difference between a task and a foul."

- Advantage Madrid -

Spanish midfielder Isco got a exceptional set up front for injury-hit Real Madrid performing alongside Marco Asensio and Vinicius.

The 13-time European champions were without striker Karim Benzema because of an ankle problem with an injury list also including Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal.

"It's true there are many casualties, however the players who are here are doing very well, committed, every time you will find a change we adjust," added Zidane.

But Zidane's side didn't truly make the almost all of the excess man despite approaching closest to breaking through in the primary half with a Casemiro header, with Nacho, Isco and Vinícius Junior as well threatening and Luka Modric firing over.

Atalanta continued to strike, with Luis Muriel missing a chance to give the hosts the lead four minutes prior to the break with a good long-range hit that went just wide.

Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini then kept the scores level when he stopped a Casemiro header on a free of charge kick prior to the half-time whistle.

Josip Ilicic came on in place of Muriel after 56 moments.

The Slovenian scored five goals against Valencia at this time of the competition last season, but was substituted four a few minutes from time after a poor display.

Soon later on Madrid broke through thanks to Mendy, who defeat Gollini with a stylish, curling effort in to the top corner.

Madrid have the benefit going into the next leg having missed out on the quarter-finals for the last two seasons.

"Normally there are a great number of goals in video games against Atalanta, we had been expecting a difficult game but following the red it had been normal they might defend deep," said Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Atalanta desire a historic effort in the away leg to attain the previous eight for another successive year.

The Bergamo side won their last 16, first leg clash against Valencia 4-1 this past year before 45,000 spectators in Milan's San Siro.

That match was thought to have been among the reasons for the acceleration of coronavirus in Italy with Bergamo at the epicentre of the country's outbreak.

The are within their second Champions Group campaign, but Wednesday's match was the first knock-out fixture within their house stadium which underwent renovations last period.

And a large number of fans overlooked the Italian team's plea to remain away with a party atmosphere outside the stadium with a fireworks display.