Atalanta saw their Champions League hopes come to an end with an underwhelming 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday, losing 4-1 on aggregate.
Smarting from a 1-0 home leg defeat in which they played the majority of the match with 10 men following Remo Freuler’s harsh dismissal, La Dea travelled to Spain looking to atone for that defeat.
Yet, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side never got going and were easily swept aside by a Real Madrid team that rarely looked threatened beyond an intense opening quarter of an hour.
Atalanta return to Bergamo full of regrets across the tie, starting from Freuler’s dismissal to the way that they succumbed to defeat in the Spanish capital.
With the away leg finely poised, the Orobici shot themselves in the foot shortly after the half hour mark through Marco Sportiello’s howler and it was an uphill struggle from there.
The goalkeeper’s wayward kick fell straight to Luka Modric and he made no mistake in finding Karim Benzema for the opener.
Meanwhile, Atalanta failed to contain Vinicius Junior in the second half and after allowing the Brazilian to glide through the defence once before missing, did not heed the warning. A clumsy challenge from Rafael Toloi on the ex-Flamengo forward led to a penalty and the end of the contest.
With goals a must, La Dea will look back with regret that despite a positive start, they didn’t show true attacking intent and creativity until it was far too late in the game. Substitute Duvan Zapata forced two good saves from Thibaut Courtois in the final 20 minutes, but by then the tie was slipping out of sight.
Even after Luis Muriel had given them the faintest glimmer of hope with a stunning freekick, it was cruelly snatched away as tired defending allowed Marco Asensio to net almost immediately.
Atalanta may point to the harsh red card in the first leg, as well as referee Danny Makkelie’s decision to blow for half-time with Muriel clean through on goal in the second match as moments of great significance.
Ultimately though, their biggest disappointment will come from a failure to produce a performance of attacking verve and swagger that fans in Serie A have grown so accustomed to, with an opportunity that was there for the taking.