The rennet of Madrid’s backbone and its greatest individual talent brought Real to the quarterfinals of the European Cup. Faced with Madrid’s virtues, Atalanta barely had more dictation than deploying as a joint team, but without outstanding footballers. From less to more, Madrid lowered their adversary, first the victim of a strike from their goalkeeper and then fused by Vinicius. In the middle there were traces of Benzema, Modric, Kroos, Ramos … The solera of this Real. Enough to dispatch this sophisticated Atalanta, an unexpected European adventurer since the last edition of the Champions League. This course with less travel, but that in no way detracts from this squadra author that has threaded the curmudgeon Gasperini. And without totemic players, far from it.
Atalanta had no qualms in its staging: at full speed. It’s his thing. Without skilled or imaginative players, the Italian team functions as a consortium of marines. All with worn soles, invaders in the rival field and with individual arrests throughout the ranch. A set of toothpicks that baffles the adversary due to its uniqueness. A tin. All applied in the quartermaster. It was noticed by Madrid, which from the beginning was caught by the Italian clamp near the perimeter of Courtois. With more nerve than gunpowder, Atalanta forced the Belgian goalkeeper to a constant long kick. Only one arrival from Gosens, after a blunder by Varane, showed Courtois’ hands.
Real took half an hour to shake off his peculiar rival, atomic in his persistence to defend forward. Kroos and Modric huddled in the role of the sanctioned Casemiro, but nobody found the great horizon that the Italian group left behind. Valverde lost, almost to the extreme on the right, there were no appointments with Benzema and Vinicius, generally forced to play with their backs many blocks away from their comrades. A couple of Vinicius races gave the locals some peace of mind. There is no Vinicius, or similar, in the Atalanta. Ilic, the most destabilizing, lives one of those particular condemnations of Gasperini, his technician.
The passing of time made a dent in the Italian team, which was losing deposit due to their exhausting match. Madrid survived the first swell, enough to shave off their opponent. If you barely had Courtois notices, even less Sportiello. But the man was half harassed for the first time and gave Modric a geometric pass. The Croatian dragged the visitor behind, who had been left naked by his goalkeeper’s blunder, and cited Benzema with the goal. With a firm defense in anticipation and little else, Madrid was already 1-0. The rest was put by Sportiello. Football, they say, is a game of mistakes and none was thicker than that of the Italian goalkeeper. Above, before two leaders like Modric and Benzema, footballers who for nothing in the world can recruit Atalanta.
With an advantage, Valverde gained territory, Kroos and Modric put in the usual governance and the match turned to the Madrid side. Greater control allowed him to play at his gait, not at the Atalanta’s initial volume.
When the second half arrived, it was Vinicius who gave the Bergamo team no truce. The Brazilian at his best. Fast, electric. As each opposing player passed, the chain came off. It didn’t matter if Vinicius sprinted miles from the goal. He did it on the left side of the attack. He put the turbo in his own field, crossed the Di Stéfano at full speed and arrived at the Sportiello area with enough freshness to send two defenders to the ditch with a dribble. But it’s Vinicius: “Dribbling is easier than scoring.” The end of the extraordinary play emphasized his interview in this newspaper last Monday.
While Atalanta unsuccessfully tracked down a Vinicius, the former Flamengo player followed his own. Peck by peck. In one of them, he knotted Toloi’s hips and the visiting captain hunted him at the entrance to the area. A gift penalty for Sergio Ramos (2-0) and a tie in the pocket for Zidane’s men. Benzema was able to finish the job, but the shot went to a post.
Only in the twilight were a couple of opportunities presented to the visitors, but Courtois enlisted in Madrid. As much as he did not manage to deflect a foul executed wonderfully by Muriel. Crumbs for Atalanta, who were hit by Asensio 3-1 a couple of minutes later. A few seconds had the Balearic in the field. The boy who had not attended or scored games and games, a blink of the eye was enough to score. End of the party for Atalanta, already healed since the first leg due to the early and more than debatable expulsion of Freuler. A corkage for a Real back to the quarter three years later. A Madrid I live where you like it: in Europe.