Leicester City 1:1 Atletico Madrid (1:2)
City’s wonderful European Odyssey came to an end at the King Power on Tuesday night when Atletico Madrid’s first half away goal simply gave them too much to do…
Craig Shakespeare made one change from the first leg six days previously, with Morgan returning from his injury lay-off to replace the suspended Huth.
The teams emerged to a cauldron of an atmosphere with a forest of metallic blue, silver and gold flags in the home areas and the away corner contributing their own display of scarves.
After we heard the Champions League Anthem for a tenth time, the noise increased still further as the game kicked off, with Madrid attacking the Kop end.
With the game so finely balanced, neither side could afford to throw too many men forward, and the early stages saw City probing forward and trying to send Vardy through, but Atletico’s defence appeared to have the measure of him.
Atletico’s first attacking move came in the 12th minute, but Simpson managed to slide in to block a dangerous looking run from Griezmann.
The visitors’ attacking spell continued with fast and accurate passing and Carrasco’s low cross almost found Koke in the middle.
Saul then fired a shot from the edge of the area well wide.
Ndidi wasted an opportunity as he ran forward into space but mishit his shot straight at Oblak.
City had a good spell 20 minutes in. They won a corner, but a Benalouane foul meant that it came to nought. But they continued to press forward and a Mahrez through ball sent Vardy into the area on the left. His cross to the near post found Okazaki but he blazed it wide from 6 yards as a challenge came in.
Soon after this, Griezmann brought Mahrez down, but the winger delivered a tame free-kick straight into Oblak’s grasp.
City then broke again, but Mahrez delayed his pass to Vardy and the offside flag halted the move.
Just as in the first leg, an attacking spell for City ended with a goal for Atletico.
Filipe Luis swung in a cross from the left and Saul timed his run perfectly to send a precise header beyond Schmeichel’s reach and into the net.
It was the goal that City couldn’t afford to concede, and left them needing three goals to win the tie.
Although the crowd roared City on, Atletico were in control now and looking every inch one of the top sides in Europe.
Carrasco curled in a shot that Schmeichel had to be sharp to catch, before Mahrez struck a volley through a crowded defence that didn’t have enough pace to trouble Oblak.
Carrasco then went on a solo run down the right, rode a challenge from Benalouane, and seemed intent on dribbling the ball into the net before Schmeichel managed to halt his progress with a sliding tackle at the right hand post.
Craig Shakespeare was faced with a huge challenge at half time and he made two changes, introducing Ulloa and Chilwell for Okazaki and Benalouane.
This changed City’s shape and immediately made life less comfortable for the Champions League finalists. Both subs looked lively as City launched one attack after another.
There was a scare in the 50th minute, however, when Griezmann raced down the right, and hit a low cross to Carrasco. Albrighton applied just enough contact to prevent him from getting on the end of it without conceding a penalty.
City kept up the frantic pace and when a header from Vardy dropped into some space in the area Chilwell fired a fine volley inches over the bar.
City finally managed to breach Atletico’s defence in the 61st minute. Albrighton swung in a dangerous cross from the right which reached Chilwell at the back post. His fierce shot was blocked, but as he appealed to the ref for handball, the loose ball fell for Vardy who stabbed it home from six yards.
City still needed two goals, but the noise around the stadium was clamorous, Madrid were out of their comfort zone, and the miracle was still on.
Four minutes later City came so close to a second. A Fuchs long throw from the left saw Morgan win an aerial duel and the ball sat up nicely for Ulloa who blasted a shot on target, but Hernandez somehow managed to block.
As City continued to pile forward Mahrez set up Vardy on the penalty spot but this time it was Savic who managed to get in the way of a goal bound effort.
With Atletico pinned in their own half, Ndidi was the next to have a shot on goal, but he miskicked it wide.
As the game entered the final twenty minutes Albrighton delivered another cross from the right, but Vardy’s smart backheeled effort didn’t catch out Oblak.
Godin then brought Mahrez down on the edge of the area: he took the free kick himself but it flew narrowly over the bar.
City continued to threaten relentlessly with crosses from Albrighton and Chilwell and long throws from Fuchs, but time was running out for them.
With seven minutes left Morgan went down and stayed down, having to be replaced by Amartey. It was a sad sight to see him limping round the perimeter after his first game back from injury and he was given a standing ovation all the way.
Atletico still had the threat of Griezmann on the break but on one occasion Schmeichel came racing way out of goal to thwart him, and then he should have fed Torres but fluffed the chance.
As the game entered time added on City looked exhausted after an incredible second half performance and Atletico had more posession.
Schmeichel came up for a late series of corners, but City couldn’t will the ball into the net and the final whistle signalled the end of City’s awfully big adventure.
Most of the crowd remained after the final whistle, bristlng with pride, and after Diego Simeone had sought out the City players for a consoling hug, there was a fitting lap of honour.
It had been said that Leicester would embarrass England in the Champions League. As the last English team in the competition, winners of their group, and unbeaten at home, this could not have been further from the truth.
Craig Shakepeare summed up: “The whole club, from the supporters to the players to the owners can be immensely proud. We had them rattled with the effort and commitment we showed. It’s no discredit to lose to a team of that calibre. I’ve just said to the players that they should want more of this and they’ve agreed that that’s what they want. All players want to play at the highest level and the Champions League is the highest level but we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now.”
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (Amartey 84), Benalouane (Chilwell 45), Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Okazaki (Ulloa 45), Vardy. Subs Not Used: Musa, King, Zieler, Gray.
Atletico: Oblak, Juanfran (Hernández 55), Savic, Godín, Filipe Luis (Correa 74), Ñíguez, Gabi, Giménez, Koke, Carrasco (Torres 69), Griezmann. Subs Not Used: Moyá, Gameiro, Partey, Gaitán.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi. Attendance: 31,548.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber
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