A brilliant late strike from Ferland Mendy gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win over 10-man Atalanta in their Champions League last-16 first leg at Bergamo Stadium. The hosts saw Remo Freuler controversially sent off early on.
An open beginning to the first-leg tie was marred by a debatable refereeing decision. Freuler was shown a harsh straight red for bringing down Mendy on the edge of the box.
It was adjudged the Swiss midfielder denied the French left-back a clear goalscoring opportunity. Ultimately it was a questionable decision from German referee Tobias Stieler with other Atalanta defenders in the vicinity.
With Real Madrid eager to capitalise on their man advantage, stand-in false nine Isco and Luka Modric both had innocuous efforts on goal before Casemiro missed their best chance in first-half injury-time.
The Brazilian – who scored an aerial winner against Real Valladolid last Saturday – guided his point-blank header from a delightful Kroos corner straight into the body of a stunned Pierluigi Gollini.
The second half was a tale of Real Madrid dominating possession but struggling to break down a compact, resolute Atalanta defence. Modric saw two half-chances go wide while Marco Asensio had a free-kick comfortably saved.
But finally, in the 86th minute, the deadlock was broken. It was Mendy who had the key, bending a stunning right-footed strike from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.