Atletico Madrid 1:0 Leicester City
A poor penalty decision proved to be the only difference between the sides as City lost 1-0 in Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday night…
There was an electric atmosphere inside the Vicente Calderón Stadium, in what will be its last season, with many more Leicester fans than the official away allocation in attendance.
Craig Shakepeare sent out the line-up everyone was expecting, with captain Morgan still sidelined with a back injury, and due to the colour clash they were in 80s style blue shirts with white shorts and white socks.
City created the first chance of the game after three minutes when Vardy made good progress down the left, but no one could reach his low cross.
City got a scare two minutes later when Koke cut in from the left and fired a fierce right-footer from the edge of the area against the left hand post.
Soon after this Griezmann crossed from the left, and although Huth got his head to it, the ball fell for Carrasco at the far post, but he volleyed high and wide with Fuchs applying some pressure.
Atletico kept pressing forward with intensity, Griezmann launched a long-range effort a yard over the bar and then Filipe Luiz missed the target with a near post header.
But then City, with Ndidi pulling the strings, began to find their way into the game.
They enjoyed a spell of possession and were probing forward with Albrighton delivering a couple of crosses, but in the 29 minute Atletico ‘did a Leicester’ on us and took a 29th minute lead.
Play was on the edge of Atletico’s area when Griezmann went haring the length of the field down the left. Albrighton matched him for pace and looked to have done the perfect spoiling job, bringing the Madrid star down a couple of feet outside the area.
But referee Jonas Eriksson pointed to the spot, and Griezmann sent Schmeichel the wrong way with his spot kick.
Despite this blow, and the incredible noise around the stadium, City kept their composure.
Koko sent another long-range effort off target, while Albrighton did the same at the other end.
The ref was buying dives from the home players all over the field, so it was difficult for City to get anything going, but they got to half time, just one controversial goal behind.
Craig Shakespeare started the second half with King on for Okazaki.
Atletico were on top for the opening stages and Benalouane picked up a yellow for a late challenge on Torres as the defence began to look stretched.
But City weathered the early storm again and play moved to Atletico’s area. A Fuchs long throw wasn’t dealt with and Huth had a shot blocked before Mahrez picked up the loose ball but his attempted curler into the top corner flew well wide.
Bad news followed this when Griezmann was bowled over by Huth, who picked up a yellow card that would rule him out of the return leg.
On the hour Mahrez picked up the ball on the left, made his way into the area and beat one man before crashing into Gabi rather too obviously. The ref wasn’t tempted to award a second penalty.
Atletico should have gone 2-0 up a minute later when Gabi sent Torres in on goal. He rounded Huth to make space for a shot but slipped over at the vital moment.
There was another close call when Torres fed Griezmann in down the left but his cross flashed across goal with no Madrid players in the goal mouth.
Craig Shakespeare made his second substitution in the 77th minute, bringing Slimani on for Vardy. Soon after this there was more activity around the dug out when technical staff member Tom Joel was sent to the stands for straying into the home technical area while delivering energy drinks to the players. There’s nothing like getting the big decisions right.
With five minutes remaining Benalouane produced a vital interception to cut out a low Juanfran cross that was heading for Griezmann.
Bar one run into the box from Correa, City weren’t really troubled up to the full time whistle and the game ended with City just one goal down and still in with a realistic prospect of further progress in the competition.
Craig Shakespeare was not happy with the nature of the defeat: “We were hard done by. It is one of the major decisions in the game – a definite foul but outside the box. I think it is a disappointing moment, a key moment. The referee has to get that one right, you can’t guess. Refs have a hard job but you want the key decisions correct.”
But it was another glorious European adventure for the fans, at least for the ones who avoided the indiscriminate police batons. Eight years ago to the day City were playing at Hereford in the third tier… now they have a decent chance of an appearance in the Champions League semi-finals.
Atletico: Oblak, Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Filipe Luis, Carrasco (Correaat 65), Gabi, Ñíguez, Koke, Torres (Parteyat 75), Griezmann. Subs Not Used: Correa, Cerci, Hernández, Partey, Gaitán, Giménez, Campos Moreira
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Benalouane, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Albrighton, Okazaki (King 45), Vardy (Slimaniat 77). Subs Not Used: Chilwell, King, Amartey, Slimani, Zieler, Gray, Ulloa.
Referee: J Eriksson. Attendance: 51,423.
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