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.
The Foxes go down fighting
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 tough it out
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.
The King Power rises to the occasion
This may be the last Champions League night at the King Power for some time – and if it is, Leicester City made sure it left plenty to remember them by.
The pre-match ceremonials were raucous and spectacular, with pyrotechnics, dry ice and fireworks whipping the home fans into a noisy frenzy.
Atletico were unmoved by the atmosphere early on but certainly felt its force as they were penned back in the second period.
The King Power has proved to be the perfect environment for Leicester City’s Champions League adventure – and so it proved once more here.
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).
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).
- 5MorganSubstituted forAmarteyat 84′minutes
- 29BenalouaneSubstituted forChilwellat 45′minutes
- 20OkazakiSubstituted forUlloaat 45′minutes
- 20JuanfranSubstituted forHernándezat 56′minutes
- 3Filipe LuisSubstituted forCorreaat 74′minutes
- 10CarrascoSubstituted forTorresat 69′minutes
- Gianluca Rocchi
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Leicester City 1, Atlético de Madrid 1.
Second Half ends, Leicester City 1, Atlético de Madrid 1.
Attempt missed. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético de Madrid) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the right wing misses to the left. Assisted by Stefan Savic following a fast break.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by José Giménez.
Attempt saved. Marc Albrighton (Leicester City) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ben Chilwell.
Attempt missed. Ben Chilwell (Leicester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right following a corner.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Stefan Savic.
Foul by Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City).
Gabi (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Christian Fuchs (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Koke (Atlético de Madrid).
Foul by Daniel Amartey (Leicester City).
Ángel Correa (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt saved. Ángel Correa (Atlético de Madrid) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Koke.
Attempt blocked. Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Wilfred Ndidi.
Substitution, Leicester City. Daniel Amartey replaces Wes Morgan because of an injury.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Wes Morgan (Leicester City) because of an injury.
Hand ball by Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético de Madrid).
Attempt saved. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by José Giménez.
Foul by Wes Morgan (Leicester City).
Fernando Torres (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City).
Ángel Correa (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by José Giménez (Atlético de Madrid).
Substitution, Atlético de Madrid. Ángel Correa replaces Filipe Luis.
Attempt saved. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Riyad Mahrez with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Danny Simpson (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Atlético de Madrid. Fernando Torres replaces Yannick Carrasco.
Foul by Christian Fuchs (Leicester City).
Koke (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Riyad Mahrez.
Attempt blocked. Marc Albrighton (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Lucas Hernández.
Attempt blocked. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Offside, Atlético de Madrid. Filipe Luis tries a through ball, but Yannick Carrasco is caught offside.
Foul by Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City).