In Review

Atletico end Leicester's Champions League adventure

Jamie Vardy goal not enough to keep Foxes' dream alive, but Madrid manager Diego Simeone admits his team were 'living in fear'

Leicester City 1 Atletico Madrid 1 (Atletico win 2-1 on aggregate)

Leicester's Champions League odyssey finally came to an end against Atletico Madrid at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday evening as the Spanish side defended their slim first-leg advantage. 

Although the Foxes began brightly in front of their raucous fans, their task became Mission Impossible after 26 minutes when, against the run of play, the visitors scored a precious away goal.

Saul Niguez's precise header just beat the despairing dive of Kasper Schmeichel to creep inside the far post and from then on Leicester knew they needed three goals to see off the Spaniards.

It was a formidable task against a team with one of the best defensive records in Europe and, although Jamie Vardy did pull a goal back for Leicester in the second half with a deft finish, it proved beyond the home side on a night when raw emotion wasn't enough.

"In the first half we played really well but the goal changes the game plan," said Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare, who then described his emotions at the end of the club's extraordinary European run. "Disappointment obviously to go out but immensely proud of the performance.

"I thought we gave it a really good shot against an excellent team... We still felt we were in the tie from the first leg. We had a right go tonight but ultimately we’ve just failed at the last hurdle."

For Atletico Madrid, so often overshadowed by Barcelona and Real Madrid, the result means they are in their third Champions League semi-final in four years and coach Diego Simeone couldn't conceal his satisfaction at the achievement.

"I am full of emotion and pride at the performance of my team, full of hope and excitement as we progress further in the competition," he said.

"But I have to say what a great performance from Leicester. It was a pleasure to compete against them. They never gave up for one minute, they never let their heads drop.

"We were living in fear all night about what they might achieve as they kept coming forward. They pushed us all the way."

While Atletico look forward to finding out in Friday's draw who they will meet in the last four, for Leicester it's a return to a Premier League campaign that has been an anti-climax after last season's title-winning heroics.

"I hope the benefit is they want some more of it," said Shakespeare of his squad. "They’re very disappointed in there but I said they can be proud of what they achieved.

"They should want more of this. All players want to play at the highest level, which the Champions League is. But we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now."

Atletico Madrid 1 Leicester 0

The Foxes live to fight another day after they fought valiantly against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. 

A controversial penalty from Antoine Griezmann was all that separated the two sides although in truth it was nothing less than the Spaniards deserved as they dominated their visitors in the Vicente Calderon stadium.

"I think 1-0, we would have taken that before the game," said Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare. "We came to try and get the away goal but we have seen what a top team Atletico Madrid are. The message is that mentally and physically we have been in a game and have given a good account of ourselves."

Nonetheless, despite his upbeat analysis, Shakespeare was fuming at the penalty awarded to Atletico Madrid just before the half-hour mark. The outstanding Griezmann galloped goalwards down the left flank and was felled by a clumsy challenge from Marc Albrighton. There was no doubt it was a foul but the contact clearly happened a foot outside the box. 

Not in Jonas Eriksson's opinion, however, with the official waving away Leicester protests to point to the penalty spot. Griezmann coolly sent Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way for what many home fans expected to be the first of several goals.

But Leicester held on, helped by the frame of the goal and an embarrassing second-half slip from Fernando Torres with the goal at his mercy. 

"It is a really disappointing decision by the referee," said Shakespeare, reflecting on the penalty. "It's a key moment in the game. He has to get that one right, he can't guess on those things. It's a definite free-kick but it's out of the box. It's the key decisions you want correct."

Shakespeare's sentiments were echoed by Schmeichel, who said: "It has ruined our gameplan. It is a decision that is tough to take when it is so clear and obvious. We should have had something from this but we have to accept it."

That was an assessment from the Leicester keeper that bordered on the realm of fantasy. The visitors had only 32 per cent possession and didn't manage a shot on target in the 90 minutes. Nonetheless, as Shakespeare said of next Tuesday's second leg: "We have got a good record at the King Power and the tie is still alive."

Atletico Madrid could be a bridge too far for Leicester City

12 April

Leicester City meet Aletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League tonight with the aim of taking "the most implausible success story of the modern football era... [to] even greater heights", says Daniel Taylor of The Guardian

Examples of how far the Foxes have come to reach the Vicente Calderon stadium are two-a-penny. Eight years ago, says Taylor, Leicester were playing Hereford United in League One, having "just come out of a run of games featuring Carlisle, Peterborough and Colchester".

Henry Winter in The Times adds that five years ago, "Jamie Vardy was being substituted in a defeat by Luton Town in a Blue Square Conference game for Fleetwood Town".

Other players have equally humble backgrounds. In 2007, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who will lead the side in the absence of Wes Morgan, was bumping around the lower leagues, spending time on loan at Darlington, Bury and Falkirk in Scotland, before being sold by Manchester City to Notts County in 2009.

But Madrid could be as far as their European adventure takes them, says Winter.

"Leicester's graduates of the school of hard knocks will need all their hunger tonight. Atletico are a far trickier, more threatening foe than the Seville side who Leicester blew away at the King Power," he says. 

"Atletico's work ethic, tactical discipline and unity are frequently praised, yet the individual talent applied to the collective cause makes them even more redoubtable. Antoine Griezmann could inflict sustained pain on Yohan Benalouane and Robert Huth."

Martin Keown in the Daily Mail fears it "will be a step too far" for Leicester against a side that have featured in two of the past three Champions League finals.

But Atletico see some kinship with their opponents, says Sid Lowe in the Guardian.

"There is a sense that they share something with their opponents," he says. "Leicester's title was followed with fascination and fondness in Spain. When, incredibly, it actually happened, it was celebrated.

Several Atletico players have said they see Leicester as "similar" to their own team, "both for what they have done – and they more than most teams in this competition appreciate that – and for how they play". 

However, Atletico are Spain's third most successful club, reports Rob Bagchi in the Daily Telegraph, and under the charismatic management of Diego Simeone they have learned to shed their image as bridesmaids to Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"The quest for Champions League redemption has given them another mission," he says. "Atletico are patient, cerebral, utterly self-possessed and unrelenting. Such qualities make the scale of Leicester City's challenge in the first leg of their quarter-final at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night truly daunting.

Leicester on 'revenge' mission as they draw Atletico Madrid

17 March 

Foxes have lost to Spanish team twice in Europe but think they can win their Champions League quarter-final clash

Leicester City will play last-year's Champions League runners up Atletico Madrid in the last eight of the Champions League after being drawn against the Spanish side for the third time in four European campaigns.

The most spectacular of the quarter-finals pits Real Madrid against Bayern Munich, who demolished Arsenal in the last round. Italian champions Juventus will face Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund will play Monaco, the conquerors of Manchester City.

With the three Spanish sides kept apart, there is a chance that three of the last four could come from the same country for the first time since 2009 when Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were all semi-finalists.

It also increases the chances that the final will be played between two sides from the same country for the fourth time in five years. Real Madrid saw off city rivals Atletico in 2016 and 2014 and the 2013 final was an all-German affair.

Leicester have played Atletico twice before in Europe – in the first round of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1961 and again in the Uefa Cup in 1997. The Spanish side won both ties.

"The tie pits Leicester against one of the most consistent European teams of recent years," says The Guardian. "Diego Simeone's side have reached the Champions League final in two of the last three seasons, losing to city rivals Real on both occasions, last year on penalties. They were also beaten by Real in the quarter-finals in 2015 and won the Europa League in 2012. The one encouraging factor for Leicester is Atletico have not been quite as strong in the league this season and sit fourth in La Liga, five points behind Sevilla."

After their previous defeats to Atletico Leicester might be up for "revenge", says Ian Stringer of BBC Radio Leicester. "It's a winnable tie," he claims. "Atletico are fourth in La Liga and won't like the Foxes' style of play. They'll have seen how they dispatched Sevilla and won't be looking forward to Jamie Vardy running at them. Wishful thinking, maybe, but it's a good draw for City."

In the Europa League Manchester United, the only other English team left in Europe, were drawn against Anderlecht, who are two points clear in the Belgian league.

Champions League draw

Ties to be played 11-12 April and 18-19 April.

Atletico Madrid (Spain) vs Leicester City (Eng)

Borussia Dortmund (Germany) vs Monaco (France)

Bayern Munich (Germany) vs Real Madrid (Spain)

Juventus (Italy) vs Barcelona (Spain)

Europa League draw

Ties to be played 13 April and 20 April

Anderlecht (Bel) vs Manchester United (Eng)

Celta Vigo (Spa) vs Genk (Bel)

Ajax (Ned) vs Schalke (Ger)

Lyon (Fra) vs Besiktas (Tur)


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