Real Madrid, who were knocked out in the last 16 by Manchester City last term and Ajax Amsterdam the season before, reached the last eight for the first time since 2018.
Real Madrid easily overcame Atalanta 3-1 at home in their Champions League last-16 second leg on Wednesday to stroll into the quarterfinals 4-1 on aggregate. Karim Benzema scored a sixth goal in five games to put the 13-times European champions in charge after 34 minutes following a poor kick out by Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello which was intercepted by Luka Modric.
Captain Sergio Ramos put Real further at ease when he converted a penalty on the hour, although the Italian side managed to get one goal back thanks to a free kick from Luis Muriel in the 83rd. But any hope they had of making a recovery was quickly dashed a minute later by a low strike from Real substitute Marco Asensio.
Real, who were knocked out in the last 16 by Manchester City last term and Ajax Amsterdam the season before, reached the last eight for the first time since 2018. Zinedine Zidane’s side will be the only Spanish team left in Europe’s elite club competition unless city rivals Atletico Madrid overturn a 1-0 deficit at Chelsea on Wednesday.
“The most important thing was to get through as we hadn`t done that the last two years,” said Modric.
“We have to take each game as it comes and see how far we get but tonight we showed that there’s a lot of hunger still in this team and I hope we can go very far.”
The draw for the rest of the competition is on Friday. Atalanta had pulled off away wins over European giants Liverpool and Ajax in the group stage and nearly got off to an ideal start when Robin Gosens met a Muriel cross in the third minute but was thwarted by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The Serie A side continued to harass Real with their high pressing but the hosts slowly managed to pass their way out of trouble thanks to the experienced heads of midfield duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Real found the breakthrough on the night thanks to some high pressing of their own which saw Modric stick out a leg to block Sportiello`s poor kick and then square the ball to Benzema, who calmly stroked it into the net.
“This was a very demanding game,” added Modric. “Atalanta are a very physical team and press you all over the pitch without stopping. I think we played well from the start and we`re very happy to make it to the quarter-finals.”
Real’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr should have added to their lead after a superb move involving left back Ferland Mendy but after doing the hard part to coast past Atalanta’s defence he missed the target from close range.
He made amends by bursting into the area and drawing a foul in the box by Rafael Toloi, allowing Ramos to blast the spot kick beyond the outstretched Sportiello and effectively end the tie as a contest, scoring his 101st goal for the club.
“We came out onto the pitch with the ambition to win the game, to dominate the ball and control the play and we did that and had chances to score even more goals,” said Ramos. “There’s still a long way to go this season but this is the right path.”