Leicester’s Champions League campaign ended by Atletico

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm April 19, 2017 08:14

Leicester’s Champions League campaign ended by Atletico

Leicester City’s Champions League adventure ended in disappointment at the quarter-final stage despite a spirited second-leg display against Atletico Madrid.

The Foxes dominated for much of the game at the King Power Stadium, creating numerous chances throughout, but were left with too much to do after Saul Niguez’s 26th-minute header added to Atletico’s one-goal advantage from the first leg in Madrid.

Needing three second half goals, Leicester responded with splendid defiance and equalised on the night when Jamie Vardy scored at the far post just after the hour.

They kept battling until the end as Atletico survived several scrambles, but the La Liga superpower held on and the Premier League’s interest in the tournament ended.
Leicester City have gained huge credit and credibility in making their way to the last eight of the Champions League as England’s last surviving representatives.

And even in defeat over two legs to this battle-hardened Atletico Madrid side – twice losing finalists in recent seasons – the Foxes can be proud of another monumental effort that just came up short.

Craig Shakespeare’s side were second best as Atletico looked a cut above for the first 45 minutes to lead through Niguez’s header, which left Leicester needing those three goals against a miserly defence.

The hosts could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel but instead came out fighting, invigorated by Shakespeare’s positive half-time changes. He sent on Ben Chilwell and Leonardo Ulloa for Shinji Okazaki and defender Yohan Benalouane, flooding Vardy with greater support.

Vardy’s goal was no more than they deserved and for a time they had Atletico rocking, giving the King Power Stadium belief that another miracle was on the cards. They almost added a second in goalmouth scrambles, especially when Stefan Savic blocked Vardy’s goal-bound shot.

In the final reckoning, the lack of an away goal and a controversial first-leg penalty scored by Antoine Griezmann left them with a hurdle that was just too tough to surmount.

There was disappointment inside the King Power Stadium at the final whistle but it was masked by a fully deserved standing ovation for Leicester’s players.

When last season’s Premier League champions started their Champions League journey, many believed reaching the knockout phase would represent success – so once again they defied the odds.

 

Atletico Madrid are a side built in the image and likeness of their manager Diego Simeone – talented, uncompromising and streetwise.

And in the end it was that combination of qualities that made it just too tough for Leicester City to take their journey a step further into the last four.

Atletico showed their quality in the first half to score that crucial away goal, then demonstrated the resilience that has taken them to two Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016 [both lost to arch-rivals Real Madrid].

It needed a mixture of defiance and desperation but in the end it was enough to send them into another Champions League semi-final.

Man of the match – Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

 

 

Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare, speaking to BT Sport: “In the first half we played really well but the goal changes the game plan – we knew we had to score three – so I had to make the change.

“There’s no discredit to lose to a team of that calibre.

“In terms of effort, commitment, application – as a group we were tremendous.

“The momentum was with us when Jamie [Vardy] scored but it just wasn’t to be.

“I think the whole club, the supporters, owners and players, can be immensely proud of what they’ve achieved.

“I’ve just said to the players ‘you should want more of this’.”

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone: “I’m full of emotion and pride at the performance of my team.

“I also have to say, what a great performance from our opponents. It was almost a pleasure to compete against them.”

Atletico hit 100 Champions League goals

  • Only Edinson Cavani (four) and Robert Lewandowski (four) have scored more away goals than Saul Niguez (three) in the Champions League this season.
  • Saul’s goal was the 100th Atletico Madrid had scored in the Champions League, in their 68th match in the competition.
  • Filipe Luis has provided back-to-back assists in all competitions for Atletico for the first time since October 2013.
  • Jamie Vardy is the first English player to score in a Champions League quarter-final since Frank Lampard in 2012.
  • Both of Vardy’s Champions League goals have come in the knockout stage of the competition.
  • The Foxes had 16 shots in the second half of this match, while Atletico had two.
  • Leicester exit the Champions League unbeaten at home in their first campaign (W4 D1).

What next?

Leicester return to Premier League action with an away game at Arsenal on Wednesday, 26 April, followed three days later with another away game at West Brom.

Atletico Madrid are also away from home in their next match – a trip to Espanyol in La Liga on Saturday (19:45 BST).

Source: BBC Sports

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm April 19, 2017 08:14
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