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Thursday February 25 2021
Atalanta lost the battle, not the war

Atalanta still have a chance to qualify for the Champions League last 16 stage and Richard Hall argues an angry La Dea can be an even bigger problem for Real Madrid.

When Ferland Mendy curled his shot into the net with his right foot, you could forgive Gian Piero Gasperini for thinking the Gods were against him.

Atalanta had gone down to 10 men early against Real Madrid in controversial circumstances, Duvan Zapata had limped off and now this.

However, when the dust settles, the side from Bergamo can look back at this clash against Zinedine Zidane’s side with pride and hope for the next leg.

Several UK betting sites,such as SBO, the place to go for all your betting needs and where you can compare hundreds of bookies, highlighted they had everything go wrong. Still, they came out with only a one-goal deficit. This tie is far from dead and the next leg will be scintillating.

Bergamo sits in the Alps' southern foothills between the Brembo and Serio rivers; it is a beautiful place to visit, but it was not for Zidane. The French coach was well aware that his team had come away from the game with a positive result and a warning.

Perhaps, it would have been better if, after so much pressure, an 11-man Atalanta had capitulated from a goal Madrid richly deserved.

Then maybe confidence would have been low before the trip to the Valdebebas. This however, was not the case, far from it, instead the officiating had altered the game and the resilient defence is now seen as a victory in itself. Atalanta are angry and this will be a problem for Real.

Talking about this game and not mentioning the referee, would be like talking about Catholicism and not mentioning the Pope. Tobias Steele had a huge impact on the match after he sent off Remo Freuler after he challenged Ferland Mendy who was through on goal.

The tackle itself seemed innocuous at best and yet a flash of red meant that ‘La Dea’ had to play 73 minutes with 10 men. There was no VAR used, as the referee’s bizarre confidence in his decision was steadfast. Atalanta then had to embark on their version of the Alamo as Madrid went on to have 18 attempts and 68% of possession.

Gasperini was enraged stating, “The game was ruined. Last season, after absolute chaos, the handball rule was sorted out. Now we have the temptation to remove any form of contact in football and that is suicide for the sport.”

Whilst the anger maybe justified, the positives are that Atalanta delivered a very mature performance against one of Europe’s most elite teams. Defensively they did not panic and Gasperini showed one again how tactically perceptive he was.

In turn, Real will look at this game and realise that the return leg will be a battle, as 11 v 11 will offer a totally different dynamic.

Atalanta certainly do not know when they a beaten that is for sure. Even after being five goals down against Liverpool in the Champions League, they still found enough fight to win the second leg 2-0 back in 2020.

Duvan Zapata seems like he will be fit for the next leg as his injury has been classed a simply a twinge and this will also be a boost. Even if he had been injured, the beauty of this Atalanta team is how interchangeable it is. If any player in the starting eleven is injured, they have a replacement in every position who can come on and fill the gap adequately.

This is testament to the recruitment, the tactics and the mentality of the squad.

No more has this been evident than this season. Whilst Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic looked at as indispensable last campaign, ‘La Dea’ showed this term how they are not.

Ilicic had personal problems and was out of the squad early in the season, they coped adequately. Papu Gomez fell out with the coach and was packed off to Spain, again they coped. This beautiful ability have a balance in the team that means that the quality between started and substitute is so thin, it enables them to keep going no matter what.

The second leg will be a tie that nobody will want to miss. There is no guarantee of course, yet Atalanta will travel to Madrid with purpose.

What last night did for the side from Bergamo was once again show Europe that they are no pluck underdogs, they are not just glad to be here. Far from it, they are angry that they did not get to fight Real 11 v 11 because they firmly believe that they would have won.

@RichHall80

Have your say...
Just wanted to stop by and drop some facts.

Juve havent won a single european title for 25 years.

Juve have won more Serie B titles than european the last 25 years.

Juves have won 2 CL titles in their history-same as Nottingham Forest.

Juve have lost 7 CL finals in their history-no other team in Europe have lost that many.

Last time Juve won a european title was in the 1995-96 season. Same season that a young 16 old Andrea Pirlo debuted in Serie A for Brescia.
on the 27th February, 2021 at 8:53am
@Anonymous: Shameful is not making past the group stage.....shameful is being the only team in the top 5 leagues to finish dead last in their group all because they could not score 1 goals in 2 games....even more shameful is Real madrid finishing first in the group by beating dead last in their group twice or else they didn't even deserve to qualify !
on the 26th February, 2021 at 8:42pm
Lets not forget the (3) Real Madrid UCL stolen 2016 - 2018 all with Offisde goals from Ronaldo who is consistently offside and bogus Red and Yellow Cards. Its strategic in officiating on how they breakdown sides they are against and now its in your face and obvious to a blind person. From what i see they start early on in the latter stages with the yellow cards and as it gets deeper the red cards and offside kick in. Lets not forget stoppages and hand balls.
on the 26th February, 2021 at 7:42pm
It was a good effort. La Dea are the only team in Italy worthy of playing in Europe. Napoli shameful, Juve, shameful, Roma and Milan, well. we'll see in the next round but Milan barely scraping by. What does this tell us? When Milan is top of the league and they can barely beat Red Star. Juve, the "scariest" team in Italy about to go out to Porto, Lyon last year. What a joke this league has become. English, French, Spanish and German teams know Italian teams break under a high press!
on the 26th February, 2021 at 3:12pm
That last link is NOT the game in question. My emotions are getting the better of me again!
on the 26th February, 2021 at 9:07am
Benatia's push on Vazquez in 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzs6Rhy0MhQ

And if you want to see how much we're hated look at this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0GZU9rZOzU
on the 26th February, 2021 at 9:04am
Still all to play for. This is the worst RM side in a long time, even with some players returning.

And Atalanta can score goals as we know. They need to be fearless and scare the life out of RM. 2 away goals will give RM plenty to think about.

We need Atalanta to do what they do best - attack.
And we need Juve, Milan, and Roma to not do what Italian clubs usually do in Europe - curl up and hide.

All German and French teams are gone from the EL, and the Spanish are floundering.
on the 26th February, 2021 at 1:36am
All LaDea has to do is to remind themselves on Ajax response to Madrid, only a couple of years ago! If Ajax could've done it, so can Atalanta! They owe it to themselves and to the army of fans, who are 100% behind them, from all over the world!
If they can concentrate and display their best i Spain, they can frogleap Real as if it was an ordinary mid-week training session!
So, I wish them good luck! The entire Italian football would/should be thankful to Atalanta, for everything they're doing!
on the 25th February, 2021 at 11:22pm
@ Luciano S

What player was never going to get the ball in Madrid v Juve??
on the 25th February, 2021 at 10:42pm
When Europe think of Black and Blue from Italy in the Champion's League they think Atalanta ! that right there is an achievement in itself - keep it up and you can beat Real Madrid - unless the referee screws them again !
on the 25th February, 2021 at 9:58pm
@Luciano.. I wouldn't say hated. I feel it's more like none of our teams are romanticized as underdogs like say Ajax or teams from France area, and neither are any of our teams considered popular powerhouses in the ilk of Madrid, Barca, Bayern or the EPL. In short, Italian teams going places holds no financial incentive for the powers that be. I blame the Serie A for not having the media nous to hype up the league like most other leagues can.
on the 25th February, 2021 at 9:29pm
I cannot understand how this keeps going on it is so clear to everybody in the world that the spanish teams are favored in both these tournaments i mean if it is not clear after these past few games between UCL and EL then this is criminal. Where is the outrage in ITaly and on top of that the arrogance of Real Madrid appealing casemiro yellow card possibly the biggest hack in europe along with this Granada team that looks like amateurs playing lacrosse.
on the 25th February, 2021 at 9:27pm
What a true shame that a referee can ruin a game like this, especially with VAR available. Not only was that not a red, but harsh judgement was not equally applied to Madrid players: three yellows, one of which was a second, not given. Again, some teams just never seem to be on the wrong end of controversial calls (quite suspiciously).

Nonetheless, a great display from Atalanta, making one only wonder how 11 v. 11 would have played. 3/16... let us play and may the best FAIRLY win... Forza Dea
on the 25th February, 2021 at 6:10pm
When I saw the call I immediately turned off the match. It's embarrassing how undeserved that straight red was. A yellow for sure but red was excessive
on the 25th February, 2021 at 4:41pm
Gasperini is right, the 12th man should not be able to determine the outcome of important matches when many plays can be reviewed by VAR. Furthermore losing Duvan put a dent in any chance they had with 10 players. Real will be a difficult task at home and will get some important players back but Atalanta can be proud of the way they defended and if healthy bring the game to Real in Madrid. Serie A can be proud of the progress it has made in The CL & EL, the cometetive upgrade has been
noticable.
on the 25th February, 2021 at 4:40pm
it means you are not belong there, Atalanta.
just accept it and go back to where you belong
on the 25th February, 2021 at 4:27pm
It's incredible,how year agfter year, Italian teams are on the bad end of these terrible decisions.It seems only Spanish teams play fairly.Do you remember Milan going to Barce with a two goal lead only for the Catalans to be awarded a penalty BEFORE a corner was kicked!Back from the dead Juve at Madrid losing out to a another dubious penalty(player was never going to get to the ball).Time after time this happens. We have to be the most hated nation in football.Envy, jealousy, kills us everytime.
on the 25th February, 2021 at 3:18pm

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