Ferland Mendy scored the only goal of the game as Real Madrid eked a narrow 1-0 win over ten-man Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first-leg tie.
Real Madrid made a bright start to the game and looked a threat each time they went forward. Zinedine Zidane’s men were handed a huge boost in the 17th minute as Remo Freuler was sent off for a foul on Ferland Mendy just outside the box. And even though Atalanta showed some fight despite being reduced to ten men, it was Madrid who conjured up the chances.
However, Nacho, Vinicius Junior and Isco weren’t able to find the back of the net from promising positions while Casemiro had a header saved by Pierluigi Gollini on the cusp of half-time as the scoreline remained 0-0. A similar pattern ensued after the break as well, with Real Madrid controlling proceedings but clear-cut opportunities came few and far in between.
But with less than five minutes left on the clock, Ferland Mendy unleashed a lovely curling effort with his wrong foot from outside the box to clinch a crucial win for Real Madrid heading into the second leg. And here’s how we rated the performances of Zinedine Zidane’s men on the night.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
A spectator for most parts of the game with Atalanta hardly threatening the Real Madrid goal on the night. Still showed good command in his box when needed to.
Lucas Vazquez: 6.5/10
A decent outing from the Spanish international who was fairly solid defensively and provided a handy outlet going forward. Made three tackles, one interception and a key pass as well.
Raphael Varane: 6/10
Captaining Real Madrid once again in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema, the Frenchman was largely untroubled at the back considering that Atalanta were on the back foot for almost the entirety of the game due to the sending off.
Was alert to any threat defensively and dealt with it effectively. Attempted (5) and won (4) the joint-most number of tackles, made a couple of interceptions. Looked to push forward on occasions, with one such forward run in the first half almost yielding a goal, although his effort was a bit wild.
Ferland Mendy: 8/10
Bend it like Mendy 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fz42OUUAJM
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 24, 2021
A constant menace to the Atalanta defence with his forward forays, Mendy won the foul leading to Freuler’s sending off early in the game. Won the game for his team with a brilliant curling effort from just outside the box – his first goal in the Champions League. Made one key pass as well.
Luka Modric: 7.5/10
A lively presence in the middle of the park for Real Madrid, the veteran Croatian international had a shot go over int the first half while another drifted just wide in the second period. Made four key passes – the joint-best in the game and got the assist for Mendy’s goal.
Booked early in the first half which means he is now ruled out of the second leg of the tie. Forced a save from Gollini with a good header close to half-time. Did his job well in the middle of the park breaking up play and starting attacks. Lucky not to have seen a second yellow for simulation in the second period. His absence in the next game will be a blow.
Most chances created for Real Madrid vs. Atalanta:
◉ Toni Kroos (4)
◉ Luka Modrić (4)
Most shots for Real Madrid vs. Atalanta:
◉ Luka Modrić (3)
◉ Casemiro (3)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 24, 2021
Toni Kroos: 8/10
The Player to Watch in our match preview, it was Kroos who kept Real Madrid ticking on the night with his crisp and proactive passing, as he made 138 passes, 49 of which were in the final third – both a game-high. Made four key passes as well – the joint-best in the game.
Marco Asensio: 5/10
Another game wherein the Spaniard failed to make the kind of impact expected from someone as talented as him. Apart from an inviting cross int he first half, Asensio did little of note on the night to cause Atalanta any problems.
A surprise starter in the false-nine role, the Spaniard took up some good positions between the lines and caused problems with his movement. Completed the most dribbles on the night, had a shot deflected wide while also created a chance for Vinicius Junior.
Vinicius Junior: 5/10
Vinicius Júnior has now gone 25 games without a goal for Real Madrid in honor of his old shirt number!
class act from Vini 🇧🇷👏👏🙌 pic.twitter.com/jYjJDvq6mL
— Mica (@Mica32x) February 24, 2021
Looked bright but the end product was lacking once again, which is starting to become a problem. Did play a role in Freuler’s sending off though as he sent Mendy through with a fine pass. The first player to be taken off by Zidane.
Mariano Diaz: 5/10
On for Vinicius Junior in the 57th minute. Did not threaten the hosts’ goal.
Sergio Arribas: N/A
Replaced Asensio in the 76th minute. Made a couple of decent runs.
Hugo Duro: N/A
On for Isco with less than fifteen minutes to make his Champions League debut.