Our 3️⃣ points after Real Madrid earn late winner over Atalanta

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Joel Sanderson-Murray

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Ferland Mendy’s 86th minute curling effort earned Real Madrid a 1-0 win over ten-man Atalanta in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Here are our main takeaways from the game in Bergamo …

Atalanta 0
Real Madrid 1
Full time

Real break hearts yet again

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How many times do Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid do this?

The LaLiga champions were far from their best tonight and failed to test Atalanta goalkeeper Pierlugi Gollini despite playing against ten men for over 70 minutes of this game.

Just when it looked like Atalanta might steal an unexpected goalless draw, leaving them in a solid position for the second leg, Real break their hearts with a sublime strike.

Ferland Mendy, who is very much a left-footed man in every sense, curled home a stunner from 25 yards with his weaker right foot and in the space of a moment the Spainards have gone from a position that was precarious to taking control of this tie.

This is not a performance Real supporters will remember for years to come but if it leads to Champions League trophy number 14 then it will be appreciated all the same.

Life without Karim

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Zinedine Zidane only had 16 outfield players available to choose from going into the game tonight due to the heavy injury crisis Real are having to deal with at the moment.

One of those out injured is their talismanic striker Karim Benzema and the Frenchman pulled out a surprise selection decision by opting for Isco in a ‘false nine’ role ahead of the back-up centre forward Mariano.

It was an experiment that paid off in the end considering the result but it would be even more surprising if Zidane opts to play this hand again.

Flanked by Marco Asensio and Vinícius Júnior, the Real Madrid attack failed to sync properly all night with Atalanta keeping the visitors in front of them despite the disadvantage in personnel.

The introduction of Mariano for Vinícius after 56 mins was expected and leaves Zidane with work to do.

A new plan B is going to have to be constructed for as long as Benzema remains out, with Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid up next.

Never a red

The decisive moment in this tie occurred just 17 minutes into the first leg.

Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off by referee Tobias Stieler for allegedly denying Ferland Mendy from a clear goalscoring opportunity when he fouled him just outside of the area.

It was a harsh call, with it clear to see that there was another Atalanta defender behind the ball and it changed the whole complexion of the match.

The discussion with VAR didn’t last long and Stieler wasn’t referred to the pitch side monitor at any point which just seems bizarre.

Atalanta’s gameplan was all about surviving from that point and the neutral viewer had been robbed of what promised to be an exhilarating, end-to-end Champions League encounter.