Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Jamie Vardy scored in vain as Leicester City's Champions League
fairytale came to a valiant end following a 1-1 quarter-final
draw at home to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Seeking to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit, Leicester fell
further behind to Saul Niguez's first-half header, before Vardy's
61st-minute strike gave them hope.
But despite heavy Leicester pressure and furious noise inside the
King Power Stadium, Atletico completed a 2-1 aggregate win to
reach the semi-finals for the third time in four seasons.
Leicester had hoped to become the competition's first debutant
semi-finalists since Villarreal in 2006, but they were unable to
engineer a repeat of their last-16 triumph against Sevilla.
Their exit brings to an end a golden adventure sparked by last
season's stunning Premier League title win.
Having successfully staved off the threat of relegation under new
manager Craig Shakespeare, the rest of their season now holds
nothing more than a return to pre-title normality.
It is the third time Atletico have eliminated Leicester from
continental competition, after previous triumphs in the 1961-62
European Cup Winners' Cup and the 1997-98 UEFA Cup.
Beaten by city foes Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 finals,
Diego Simeone's side can continue to dream that this will be the
year they finally end their wait for European football's biggest
Leicester's desire to make the most of the occasion was clear
from the start, pyrotechnic bursts greeting the players as they
emerged while fans twirled blue, white and gold foil flags
distributed by the club.
But whereas Leicester had quickly taken charge of their
second-leg match against Sevilla in the previous round, Atletico
made it clear they would not be pushed around like their
- Shakespeare switch -
They defended with their customary tenacity, while two dangerous
crosses from Yannick Carrasco -- preferred up front to the
fit-again Kevin Gameiro -- demonstrated their threat on the
It was just as Leicester were threatening to make inroads, Shinji
Okazaki stabbing wide at the near post from Vardy's cross, that
the visitors tightened their grip on the tie.
Filipe Luis was given space to shape a cross into the box from
the left and the unmarked Saul expertly guided a header past
Kasper Schmeichel's outstretched right hand and into the
Riyad Mahrez volleyed straight at Jan Oblak at the other end
after Marc Albrighton's cross was headed away, but it was the
voices of the away fans that rang loudest as the half-time
The second half brought with it drastic changes for the hosts,
with Ben Chilwell and Leonardo Ulloa replacing Yohan Benalouane
and Okazaki as Shakespeare switched to a bold 3-4-3 system.
Antoine Griezmann gave them a scare with an early dart into the
box, but Atletico soon found themselves on the back foot.
After Chilwell had thrashed over, Leicester levelled, Vardy
slamming in from inside the six-yard box after Chilwell's shot
had been charged down by Stefan Savic.
The final half-hour was one-way traffic, but Atletico repelled
everything Leicester threw at them.
Ulloa and Vardy both had shots blocked, while Vardy's flick was
caught by Oblak and Mahrez whipped a free-kick narrowly over the
Leicester captain Wes Morgan, passed fit to play after six games
out with a back problem, succumbed to injury late on,
symbolically hobbling off as Leicester's European dream faded