Real Madrid prevented another early Champions League exit on Tuesday by beating Atalanta 3-1 to win the tie 4-1 on aggregate and reach the quarter-finals for the first time in three years.
Sergio Ramos marked his return from injury by converting a penalty after Karim Benzema continued his scoring streak by capitalising on a glaring mistake from Atlanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.
Sportiello’s scuffed clearance in the first half resulted in Benzema being provided a simple finish at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium and after an electric start, Atalanta never truly recuperated.
Luis Muriel pulled one back for the visitors late on but any hopes of a comeback were rapidly rushed as substitute Marco Asensio fired in a third for Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will be in Friday’s draw for the last 8 and with their old guard fit and firing once again, they will be enthusiastic of exceeding what are now moistened expectations of La Liga’s ruling champs.
” We revealed tonight how much cravings there still is in this team,” stated Luka Modric. “We can go far. How far let’s see however today was an essential step.”
Ramos played simply over an hour in his 2nd look since recovering from a knee injury while Benzema’s objective was his 8th in as lots of video games and 70th in the Champions League, making him only the fifth gamer to reach that number.
The 35-year-old Modric and Toni Kroos were dominant in the absence of the suspended Casemiro.
” I feel 27!” joked Modric. “The years on your passport do not matter, it has to do with what you do on the pitch.”
How Madrid’s veterans would fare versus more refined opposition remains to be seen, after they lost versus Manchester City last year and Ajax the year before that, both in the last 16.
Sergio Ramos scored a charge in Real Madrid’s Champions League win over Atalanta on Tuesday. AFP/ PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
They will be not likely to gain from the same kindness Atalanta afforded them throughout the 2 legs.
Remo Freuler’s red card and a late goal spoiled the Italians’ night in Bergamo and it was individual mistakes from Sportiello and after that Rafael Toloi for the penalty that let them down again here.
” We started strong and we were being successful with our pushing,” said Muriel. “It’s a pity because from our two mistakes came the two objectives that cut our legs from under us.”
Atalanta tore into Madrid early on, with the intensity of their press offering their opponents no time at all to settle and Robin Gosens could have scored, just to stop working to connect with Muriel’s cross.
The early storm weathered, Madrid discovered their feet as Kroos began to determine from deep and the determined Modric popped passes around Atalanta’s midfield.
The dynamic Vinicius Junior took too long after a neat one-two with Benzema, who then showed the child how it should be done.
Sportiello’s clearance was tamed by Modric, whose second touch pressed the ball into the box before a 3rd cut the ball back to Benzema, who had an open web.
The goal killed Atalanta’s belief and Vinicius practically added a second after half-time, just to prod wide after a surging run to the edge of Atalanta’s six-yard box.
However the caution was not followed and Vinicius raced previous Toloi, whose dangling leg made sufficient contact to yield the penalty, which Ramos whipped into the corner.
Ramos signalled to the bench that his work was done and he left shortly after, before Benzema headed Lucas Vazquez’s cross at Sportiello and the rebound against the post.
Muriel provided Atalanta hope by curling in an exceptional free-kick with eight minutes left but in an instant it was gone again, as Asensio drove in a 3rd.