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