Real Madrid’s early La Liga struggles seem like a distant memory as they surged ahead in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 by beating Atalanta 4-1 on aggregate.
Los Blancos came into the game with a 1-0 lead on aggregate after an away win against the Italians in Bergamo.
This meant that all Madrid needed to do was avoid defeat to go through but they won it handsomely as they saw their captain Sergio Ramos back to marshalling his side.
This was the first time in 3 years that the Spanish champions managed to qualify for the quarterfinals of Europe’s elite club competition.
The record 13-time European Cup winners gave no opportunity to last season’s semifinalists in turning things around after the first leg.
Frenchman Karim Benzema stepped up again and gave the Galacticos the lead in the 34th minute to put Madrid firmly ahead with a 2-0 advantage on aggregate.
He capitalised on a mistake by Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello who made a terrible mess of his clearance that fell to Benzema who made no mistake in dispatching it past him.
Madrid were just too good for the entirety of the game and Atalanta failed to really threaten Zinedine Zidane’s squad.
Madrid went into the break with the 1 goal advantage and just needed to see out the game. However, the Spanish giants continued to attack and looked extremely threatening.
Vinicius Junior should have made it 2-0 after an exquisite solo run that saw him get through 1-on-1 on goal but his chip from 6 yards out, somehow went just wide of the goal.
It was Vinicius who was being a nuisance for Atalanta once again as he was brought down by Rafael Toloi in the 12-yard box given the home team a penalty.
Sergio Ramos scored from the spot in his return to football after injury and put them 2 up and 3-0 up on aggregate.
Ramos was substituted off in the 63rd minute as Zidane wanted to give him a well-deserved rest.
Atalanta pulled 1 back in the 83rd minute through Luis Fernando Muriel Fruto who scored a fine freekick but it was too little too late for the Italian side as less than a minute later, Marco Asensio made it 3-1 to finish off the tie as Los Blancos went 4-1 up on aggregate.
Madrid now join Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, FC Porto and Manchester City in the quarterfinal stage of the UEFA Champions League.
“We [Real Madrid] showed tonight how much hunger there still is in this team,” said Luka Modric. “We can go far. How far let’s see but today was an important step.”
“I feel 27!” joked 35-year-old Modric. “The years on your passport don’t matter. It’s about what you do on the pitch.”
After the game, Atalanta’s goalscorer Muriel said, “We started strong and we were succeeding with our pressing. It’s a shame because from our two mistakes came the two goals that cut our legs from under us.”
Atalanta will now shift their focus on securing a UEFA Champions League berth for next season as they currently sit in 4th place in the Serie A but with Napoli on their heels and ready to go ahead of the 2019/20 Champions League semifinalists.