By Karolos Grohmann and Peter Hall
Bergamo: Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said the referee ruined the match by sending off Remo Freuler early on in his side’s 1-0 Champions League last-16, first-leg defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).
Bernardo Silva, meanwhile, scored once and set up another as Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach, extending their winning run to 19 games in all competitions.
Freuler was sent off in the 17th minute for denying Real’s Ferland Mendy a goalscoring opportunity - the earliest red card in the Champions League for over three years - and it was an uphill battle from there for Gasperini’s side.
The 10 men held on until four minutes from full-time when Mendy curled a fine winner. The match, according to Gasperini, ended as a contest with Freuler’s dismissal.
“I don’t know what the result would’ve been,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia. “But the game was completely ruined by an incident that was judged excessively.
“I just got banned for saying something in Serie A, if I say something now then UEFA will ban me for a month. But this is football suicide. We cannot have referees who’ve never played the game and don’t know the difference between a challenge and a foul.
“If they can’t tell the difference, then they ought to go and get a different job, frankly. They should get people who played football to referee instead.”
An injury-hit Real struggled to create anything against the resolute hosts for much of the match until Mendy’s strike, and Gasperini took heart from a spirited showing, with the tie far from over ahead of the return leg in Madrid on March 16.
“We defended well and almost brought home the 0-0, but it would’ve certainly been more entertaining with 11 against 11,” he added.
“We might’ve lost anyway, I am not complaining about the result, but we at least could’ve played our game.
“We’re satisfied, though, and we are going to Madrid to play our game.”
City, who are unbeaten in their last 26 matches, have a huge advantage for the March 16 return leg in Manchester after Silva headed in a pinpoint Joao Cancelo cross in the 29th minute to put them in front.
The Portuguese midfielder then headed on another cross from man of the match Cancelo in the 65th minute for Gabriel Jesus to stab in.
“It was a good game for us, a good win, very important,” Silva said. “We know how tough this competition can be. You make a mistake and you’re out. So we tried to play simple, make no mistakes, control possession as we always do and create chances and score goals.”
“It was a very good game for us, but it’s not over yet.”
Champions League last 16 first leg
- Leipzig 0 Liverpool 2
- Barcelona 1 Paris Saint-Germain 4
- Sevilla 2 Borussia Dortmund 3
- Porto 2 Juventus 1
- Atletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 1
- Lazio 1 Bayern Munich 4
- Atalanta 0 Real Madrid 1
- Borussia Moenchengladbach 0 Manchester City 0
Striker Sergio Aguero came on as a substitute after a lengthy absence from Pep Guardiola’s team, who have won their last 12 away games in all competitions, setting a new record for an English top-flight side.
The first leg was played in the Hungarian capital due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in Germany and City quickly took control of the game, circulating the ball well and looking for openings in the Gladbach defence.
Phil Foden tested keeper Yann Sommer with a crisp shot in the sixth minute but City did not have a clear scoring chance despite controlling possession until Silva’s header.
Jesus should have done much better when he benefited from a Gladbach pass back early in the first half but with only Sommer to beat he hesitated and lost possession.
The Brazilian made amends minutes later, tapping in a Silva header from yet another superb Cancelo cross.
Gladbach, who only had one attempt on target in the entire game, had their best chance through Alassane Plea’s spectacular backflick-volley just past the hour but were otherwise boxed in their own half.
“We had to face a top team and we felt it,” said Gladbach coach Marco Rose. “But we made some mistakes even though we defended well in general terms.”
“We were not clean enough against such a team. Every pass every run has to work against them.”