In a poor game at Atalanta, Real Madrid lacked creativity, but Zinedine Zidane was delighted with the way they stuck to the task. Zinedine Zidane acknowledged injury-hit Real Madrid did not do justice to 10-man Atalanta but was happy to win a 1-0 Champions League advantage.
Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off at Wednesday’s Gewiss Stadium for a professional foul on Ferland Mendy only 17 minutes into the first leg of the 16-round tie.
In a drab encounter, Lacklustre Madrid dominated possession but only had three shots on goal until Mendy scored his first European goal to win it four minutes from time.
A depleted Los Blancos side, who on a long list of absentees had the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, lacked ideas and looked set to fire a blank before Mendy’s sweetly struck late away goal.
Madrid’s fifth consecutive win, Zidane knows, was not pretty, but he was relieved to take the upper hand heading home on March 16 for the second leg.
The Madrid head coach said: “Tonight we didn’t play a great game, but I think the result is the most important thing.”
“Scoring, in the end, is what is important to us. The second leg we still have to play, but it’s a good result.”
The former midfielder for France added: “We played against a team that was very physically strong. They were good defensively, and it was a good result.
“There are a lot of casualties, but we keep on doing what we do well. The players are committed who are here.”
In a more advanced role with Benzema still sidelined, Zidane praised Isco, who made only his fifth start of the season – and his first in the Champions League.
“It’s been a long time since he played so many minutes, and in a position that’s not his, he did very well,” Zidane said.
“He’s been playing a great game, we know what he can give us, and he’s been doing well. He gives it all on the field when he plays. It’s a victory and he’s been doing a great job for over an hour now.”