Real Madrid thump Atalanta to reach Champions League last 8

Sports Desk, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid beat Atalanta 3-1 Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League knockout stage tie to advance 4-1 on aggregate.

Though the Blancos have won Europe’s elite club competition a record 13 times, this will be their first participation in the quarterfinals in three years.

Real Madrid started with a 1-0 advantage after the first leg in Bergamo, where Atalanta played more than 80 minutes with 10 men and failed to put a single shot on target.

But while having a player sent off in the 17th minute certainly hampered Atalanta, the Spanish club were dealing with the absence of multiple starters, including top striker Karim Benzema and defensive anchor Sergio Ramos.

Zinedine Zidane, the man at the helm for the Blancos’ three consecutive Champions League titles, had the luxury Tuesday of picking a starting 11 and crafting a strategy that were not dictated by the injury list.

The hosts had an edge on possession, but the sides ended the match roughly level on shots and the outcome was determined by mistakes.

Atalanta’s Robin Gosens had a chance to even the tie at 1-1 in the 3rd minute off a brilliant cross from Luis Muriel, but his shot barely troubled goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Real Madrid’s first dangerous foray into Atalanta territory came in the 27th minute. Benzema served up the ball for Vinicius in perfect position, but the Brazilian took too long to tee it up and his effort was blocked by the defense.

In the 34th minute, Atalanta keeper Marco Sportiello sent what should have been a routine clearance straight to Luka Modric, who found Benzema unguarded for the easy goal.

Vinicius fired wide on an opportunity to settle the tie in the 52nd minute, but he drew a foul from Rafael Toloi six minutes later to win a penalty for Real Madrid.

Ramos, nearly infallible from the spot, converted with authority to make it 2-0 on the night and 2-1 overall.

Courtois made a pair of fine saves against Duvan Zapata before Muriel pulled back a goal for Atalanta with a tremendous free kick in the 83rd minute.

But late sub Marco Asensio restored the margin for the Blancos a minute later. EFE rmm/dr

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