Real Madrid Beat Atalanta 4-1 on Aggregate, Advance to UCL QuarterfinalsMarch 16, 2021
Real Madrid advanced to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, dispatching Atalanta by a 4-1 aggregate score.
Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio were the goal-scorers for Madrid in a 3-1 second-leg victory Tuesday night at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Real Madrid held a slim one-goal advantage after the first leg thanks to an 86th-minute strike from Ferland Mendy. Considering Atalanta have scored the second-most goals (63) in Serie A, the Spanish giants couldn't afford to sit back and let their opponents dictate the tempo of the second leg.
Robin Gosens got into a dangerous position in the third minute, but he sent his right-footed effort straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Rather than representing the start of things to come, the threat Atalanta posed going forward slowly fizzled out.
Their proactive style of play then came back to bite them in the 33rd minute. As the Italian club played it out from the back, Marco Sportiello failed to clear the ball past Luka Modric. Modric laid the ball across to Benzema, who had a straightforward finish for the first goal of the match.
Ramos doubled Madrid's lead from the penalty spot in the 60th minute.
Rafael Toloi was whistled for a foul on Vinicius Junior, and the referee awarded Real Madrid the penalty following a video review. The club captain thundered his shot past a diving Sportiello.
Luis Muriel finally got Atalanta on the board in the 83rd minute with a perfectly placed free kick. But Asensio quickly extinguished whatever slim hope of a comeback remained when he beat Sportiello in the 85th minute.
In general, Real Madrid were firmly in control after Courtois' save early in the first half. They finished with 57 percent of possession and limited Atalanta to five shots on target.
Gian Piero Gasperini's side have received plenty of deserved praise for their work in Italy and on the continent. Over the two legs in the round of 16, that attacking verve was noticeably absent.
Real Madrid aren't the favorites to lift the Champions League trophy in May, falling at least behind Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. However, the club has shown a propensity for going above and beyond in Europe under Zinedine Zidane.
The Madrid squads that reeled off four Champions League titles in five years are historically significant but didn't really possess a defining quality that set them apart from the rest of the competition. They didn't redefine the game in the same way Barcelona did, yet the accolades speak for themselves.
Between that recent history and Benzema's current form—six goals in five matches—nobody should write off Real Madrid's odds of collecting a 14th European Cup.
Real Madrid are in action Saturday against Celta Vigo in La Liga. A win would help Los Blancos remain within striking distance of leaders Atletico Madrid, who hold a six-point advantage. Atalanta play Hellas Verona away Sunday in Serie A. They'll look to continue fending off Napoli for fourth place in the table.