News : Real Madrid throw Atalanta out of the Champions League: pragmatic, tactically good
The scene of the game: Marco Sportiello jumped in the air, flailed his arms wildly and shouted his anger in the Madrid night sky. The cause of this outbreak: Marco Sportiello. It was the goalkeeper Atalantas himself who had played the ball to Luka Modrić without any need. Real Madrid’s midfield strategist reacted quickly, after a few steps in the direction of the goal he crossed Karim Benzema and shortly afterwards was allowed to cheer with the French over a leading goal (34th minute), which should set the sporting direction of the evening.
The result: Real Madrid beat the guests from Bergamo 3: 1 (1: 0) at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano and are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. A much more sovereign affair than in the first leg, in which the Madrilenians were only able to score the winning goal late from the 17th minute, despite the majority. Click here for the match report.
The moose test: Large teams are sometimes united by their expectation. Everyone knows how the top clubs play football, but it cannot be prevented. Real Madrid had this self-image for a long time, for years the club hardly deviated from a 4-3-3 basic order. Now Real surprisingly practiced a five-man chain in the league against FC Elche at the weekend. Against Atalanta this was used again – so Zinédine Zidane wanted to mirror the formation of the opponent and keep their offensive full-back in check.
Stylish: One of them, national player Robin Gosens, had encouraged himself and his teammates in the DAZN run-up to the game. “For us there is basically only this full throttle football,” he swore the audience on Atalanta’s distinctive offensive style. The best chance of advancing is “if we win the ball as often as possible in half of it.”
The first half: No sooner said than done: Gosens appeared at the six-yard box after just three minutes, and after a cross from Luis Muriel, the left-back missed the chance to take the lead. Atalanta seemed motivated, almost a little overzealous – and therefore not always safe on the ball. After a quarter of an hour Real had survived the urgency phase, came with a blocked shot by Vinícius Júnior to a good opportunity (27th) and after Sportiellos misfires to the lead.
The second half: Atalanta’s coch Gian Piero Gasperini replaced center forward Duván Zapata and midfielder Mario Pasalic was forced off the field. That should bring goal danger, but above all it opened up space for counterattacks. Real had their first chances, captain Sergio Ramos made the preliminary decision with a penalty (60th). Zapata’s late chances were thwarted by Thibaut Courtois (67th, 76th), Luis Muriel’s subsequent goal, a free kick in the top right corner, was at least nice to look at (82nd). Marco Asensio’s left-hand shot into the near corner to the final score immediately took the last bit of tension away from the game (84th).
Vini, vidi, vici: The fact that Real was so dangerous in switching actions – and also that Ramos was allowed to convert his penalty – the Madrilenians for once did not owe to any of the numerous old stars, but to a 20-year-old Brazilian: Vinícius Júnior, jersey flock: Vini Jr., showed himself to be Benzema’s playful partner and striker dexterous. First the youngster put the ball just wide of the goal after a dream solo (52nd), then he took out the penalty when Atalanta’s Rafael Toloi came too late into the duel (58th).
Two fine spirits do the trick: Probably the most important building block of Madrid’s sovereignty in all phases of the game was the midfield. There was a lack of regular staff: Casemiro, rustic stabilizer behind the fine spirits Modric and Toni Kroos, had to sit out with a yellow card. So the duo Kroos / Modric had more defensive tasks, which they mastered brilliantly. The veterans, 35 and 31 years old, did away with two prejudices: footballing class is not in contrast to defensive diligence, Modrić alone regained possession 16 times. And: stability does not arise from duels alone. Kroos and Modrić were always playable, hardly played a bad pass – and thus prevented the high ball wins that Gosens had announced before the game.
Fiasco: This wonderful Italian word sums up the less wonderful round of 16 record of the Italian Champions League participants. After Serie A champions Juventus, last year’s quarter-finalist Atalanta was eliminated early. The Italian flag is the only one that holds up Lazio Rome, and the Romans run after a 1: 4 deficit against FC Bayern on Wednesday evening (9 p.m., TV: Sky, live ticker: SPIEGEL.de).