Real Madrid are off to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since winning the tournament in 2017-18.
Los Blancos punished a pair of errors to secure a 3-1 win over Atalanta (4-1 on aggregate) on Tuesday. Marco Sportiello's absent-minded pass up the middle handed Karim Benzema the easiest of tap-ins in the 34th minute, and Rafael Toloi doubled the damage by conceding a penalty in the second half. Vinicius Junior, who made Swiss cheese out of Atalanta's defense with his mazy dribbling ability, won the spot-kick, and Sergio Ramos converted with ease.
Luis Muriel's free-kick in the 83rd minute provided nothing but false hope. Mere seconds later, Madrid broke into space, and substitute Marco Asensio dispatched the insurance marker past the helpless Sportiello.
Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini made the bold decision to bench striker Duvan Zapata and start Sportiello instead of Pierluigi Gollini, who backstopped the club's remarkable run in the Champions League last season.
Gasperini said he has no regrets.
Nothing worked for the Italian side. Remo Freuler's red card spoiled the first leg, which Madrid won 1-0 thanks to Ferland Mendy's late goal, and after a bright start at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday, Atalanta failed to take care of the details.
On the other hand, everything seemed to fall into place for Madrid. Ramos made his second appearance since recovering from a knee injury, and Benzema, who missed nearly a month with an adductor issue, played the full 90 minutes for a third consecutive match. The Frenchman has four goals since returning to play.