Ferland Mendy's superb 86th-minute finish earned Real Madrid a narrow victory against an Atalanta side who played more than three-quarters of this first leg with ten men.
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Real Madrid are in charge of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Atalanta after securing a late 1-0 win in Bergamo.
Match in brief
Madrid had to wait for Ferland Mendy's excellent 86th-minute goal to break the deadlock and dash the hopes of their hosts, who played more than 70 minutes with ten men following Remo Freuler's red card.
Madrid dominated possession but were left frustrated for much of the contest, not least by Pierluigi Gollini's save to keep out Casemiro's first-half header and Robin Gosens' point-blank block to thwart Vinícius Júnior. Atalanta's defences were finally breached when Mendy collected a short corner and, with his weaker right foot, bent the ball into the far corner.
Player of the Match: Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
"He scored the decisive goal and pushed on in attack for the whole game."
Cosmin Contra, UEFA Technical Observer
Vieri Capretta, Atalanta reporter
This was a very mature performance from Atalanta. They are used to trying to outscore the opposition but on this occasion realised the need for responsibility at the back following Freuler's 17th-minute dismissal. They so nearly managed not to concede the away goal, but could not quite hold on and now have their work cut out in the Spanish capital.
Joe Walker, Real Madrid reporter
It was not pretty, but as is so often the case in the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid got the job done. They struggled at times – and had to turn to an unlikely source for the decisive goal – but full-back Mendy's strike, plus the promise of first-team regulars returning from injury, ensures they are very much in the box seat.
Zinedine Zidane, Madrid coach: "They're physically strong, and they did a great defensive job. It's a good result for us and that's the most important thing. I don't think creativity is an issue as we scored, and didn't concede. We've got a lot of absentees but we're on the right track."
Thibault Courtois, Madrid goalkeeper: "We were really well focused; the away goal means a lot but the return leg will be a different game. The Champions League is always tough."
Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta coach: “We just have to win in Madrid. It’s easy – we can’t overthink, we just have one possibility. We must win."
• This Real Madrid starting XI have now scored a combined 48 UEFA Champions League goals between them; the absent Karim Benzema has 69 to his name alone.
• Atalanta have still never been involved in a goalless draw in the UEFA Champions League.
• The last time Real Madrid failed to score in a round of 16 game was a 1-0 defeat by Lyon in February 2010.
• Madrid have scored in their last 21 UEFA Champions League knockout phase matches – the last time they drew a blank in the knockout phase was against Manchester City in their 2015/16 semi-final first leg.
• Madrid have only failed to score in two of their last 28 games.
• Madrid lost the last time they recorded an away first-leg win in UEFA competition, against Ajax at this stage of the UEFA Champions League two seasons ago (2-1 a, 1-4 h).
Atalanta: Gollini; Tolói, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle (Palomino 85), De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina; Zapata (Pašalić 30), Muriel (Iličić 56, Malinovskyi 86)
Real Madrid: Courtois; Vázquez, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić; Asensio (Arribas 76), Isco (Hugo Duro 76), Vinícius Junior (Mariano Díaz 57)
Both teams have a number of domestic fixtures prior to the second leg in the Spanish capital on Tuesday 16 March.
28/2: Sampdoria (a)
03/3: Crotone (h)
08/3: Internazionale (a)
12/3: Spezia (h)
01/3: Real Sociedad (h)
07/3: Atlético (a)
13/3: Elche (h)
*League fixtures unless otherwise stated