Jamie Vardy gave the home side a glimmer of hope with 30 minutes left on the clock
LEICESTER CITY’S remarkable Champions League dream is over despite Jamie Vardy giving the Foxes a glimmer of hope.
The striker pounced with 30 minutes left on the clock to level the scores after Saul grabbed the vital away goal when he headed Atletico Madrid ahead.
Craig Shakespeare’s side needed two more goals and despite their admirable performance against the heavyweight giants, their fairy-tale story finally came to an end.
To sum up Leicester’s remarkable journey, it had been exactly eight years to the day since they beat Southend to clinch the League One title.
The feeling was Leicester needed to score first and moments after Shinji Okazaki wasted a glorious chance, the home side found themselves behind.
Former Chelsea man Filipe Luis produced a wonderful cross but the finish was even better as Saul powered a back post header out of Kasper Schmeichel’s reach.
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester’s brightest player, then had his side’s first chance on target in the tie when his volley lacked enough power to beat Jan Oblak.
Leicester needed to push forward in the second half and the unlikely figure of Ben Chilwell missed a great chance when his strike flew over the bar.
But main man Vardy gave his side a glimmer of hope with 30 minutes left when he lashed home a loose ball to send the King Power into raptures.
Leicester then had two glorious chances which fell to Leonardo Ulloa and Vardy but two terrific blocks kept the scores level.
Shakespeare’s side threw bodies forward searching for another but Atletico’s formidable defence held firm as they put themselves in the hat for the final four.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- Leicester captain Wes Morgan led by example, passing his late fitness test on the back injury which had sidelined him for six games. With Robert Huth suspended, Morgan’s experience at the heart of Shakespeare’s team was critical.
- Diego Simeone had a trick up his sleeve as he dropped out of form Fernando Torres and pushed talented attacking midfielder Yannick Carrasco into a striking role beside Antoine Griezmann in an attempt to outfox the Foxes.
- Two years ago to the day Leicester beat Swansea to move off the foot of the Premier League for the first time in months, they walked out to a rock-star rntrance – 90 tantalising minutes away from the Champions’ League semi-final.
- There were fiery explosions, plenty of noise, steam was let off and spectacular fireworks as the teams took to the field. Top marks to whoever came up with the idea of re-creating Martin O’Neill’s famous full-time meltdown the last time Atletico played in Leicester!
- Kasper Schmeichel clearly didn’t suffer from any early jitters. Within the first couple of minutes he calmly sold an onrushing opponent an outrageous dummy – to leave ANTOINE GRIEZMANN looking silly!
- Leicester failed to manage a single shot on target as they lost 1-0 in the Vicente Calderon last week. Riyad Mahrez rectified that with a curling free-kick after 24 minutes which evaded his teammates and landed in the waiting arms of Jan Oblak – more of a cross on target really!
- 67.7% of teams who have won their Champions League first leg 1-0 at home have progressed to the next round (21 out of 31). Sadly, Atletico Madrid took a huge stride towards bumping those figures up when Saul’s brilliant header from Felipe Luis’ cross found the far corner of Kasper Schmeichel’s net two minutes later.
- That opener was the Madrid giants 100th Champions’ League goal and gave Leicester a mountain to climb as they required three goals of their own – at least – to qualify.
- Unfortunately Leicester were the lowest scoring side left in the Champions League (10 goals in nine games) with exactly 50% of their goals coming from set-pieces. However Atletico have handled every Leicester attack with an efficiency which bordered on disdain.
- It won’t feel like any consolation to Craig Shakespeare and his men. However at least there was no doubt they lost to a quality side, capable of going all the way, as Atletico Madrid headed for their third semi-final appearance in four years.
Leicester’s next five fixtures
26 Apr – Arsenal (A) – Prem
29 Apr – West Brom (A) – Prem
6 May – Watford (H) – Prem
13 May – Man City (A) – Prem
18 May – Spurs (H) – Prem
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Leicester: Schmeichel 6, Simpson 6, Morgan 6 (Amartey 84, 6) Benalouane 5 (Chilwell 45, 6) Fuchs 6, Albrighton 6, Drinkwater 6, Ndidi 6, Mahrez 7, Okazaki 6 (Ulloa 46, 6) Vardy 7
Subs not used: Zieler, Musa, King, Gray
Goals: Vardy (61)
Atletico Madrid: Oblak 7, Juanfran 6 (Hernandez 55, 6) Savic 7, Godin 8, Filipe Luis 7 (Correa 74, 6), Saul 8, Gabi 7, Gimenez 9, Koke 6, Carrasco 6 (Torres 69, 5) Griezmann 7
Subs not used: Moya, Partey, Gaitain, Gameiro
Goals: Saul (26)
STAR MAN: JOSE GIMENEZ
WHAT THEY SAID
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy: “We absolutely gave it our all, especially in the second half. They made a lot of blocks on the line.
“We were in the ascendancy. We made a tactical change with Leo (Ulloa) on to give an aerial threat. “Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. But we gave it our all and left it all out on the pitch.
“On another day some could have gone in. But we can be proud.”
Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare: “We needed to leave everything out there. Second half, even first half we played really well.
“I had to make the change earlier than I thought, but we had them rattled with the effort and commitment we showed. It’s no discredit to lose to a team of that calibre.
“The whole club, from the supporters to the players to the owners can be immensely proud, but I’ve just said to the players that they should want more of this and they’ve agreed that that’s what they want.”