Champions League

Vardy in vain as Atletico end Leicester fairytale

2017-04-19 06:39
Jamie Vardy (Getty)

Leicester - 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.

"We had them rattled with the effort and commitment we showed. It's no discredit to lose to a team of that calibre," Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare told BT Sport.

"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."

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 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 prize.

"I'm full of emotion and pride at the performance of my team," said Simeone.

"I also have to say, what a great performance from our opponents. It was almost a pleasure to compete against them."

Leicester's desire to make the most of the occasion was clear from the start, pyrotechnics greeting the players as they came out 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.

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 counter.

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.

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 whistle sounded.

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 left wing-back Chilwell 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 virtually 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 bar.

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 away.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 26 September 2017
Sevilla v Maribor, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 20:45
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 20:45
APOEL v Tottenham Hotspur, Neo GSP 20:45
Spartak Moskva v Liverpool, Otkrytiye Arena 20:45
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 20:45
Monaco v Porto, Stade Louis II. 20:45
Napoli v Feyenoord, Stadio San Paolo 20:45
Besiktas v RB Leipzig, Vodafone Stadyumu 20:45
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
Qarabag v Roma, Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu 18:00
Juventus v Olympiakos Piraeus, Allianz Stadium 20:45
Sporting CP v Barcelona, Estadio Jose Alvalade 20:45
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 20:45
PSG v Bayern Munchen, Parc des Princes 20:45
Basel v Benfica, St. Jakob-Park 20:45
Anderlecht v Celtic, Stade Constant Vanden Stock 20:45
CSKA Moskva v Manchester United, VEB Arena 20:45
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 20:45
Manchester City v Napoli, Etihad Stadium 20:45
Maribor v Liverpool, Ljudski vrt 20:45
APOEL v Borussia Dortmund, Neo GSP 20:45
Spartak Moskva v Sevilla, Otkrytiye Arena 20:45
RB Leipzig v Porto, Red Bull Arena 20:45
Monaco v Besiktas, Stade Louis II. 20:45
Feyenoord v Shakhtar Donetsk, Stadion Feijenoord 20:45
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Qarabag v Atletico Madrid, Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu 18:00
Juventus v Sporting CP, Allianz Stadium 20:45
Bayern Munchen v Celtic, Allianz-Arena 20:45
Barcelona v Olympiakos Piraeus, Camp Nou 20:45
Benfica v Manchester United, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 20:45
Anderlecht v PSG, Stade Constant Vanden Stock 20:45
Chelsea v Roma, Stamford Bridge 20:45
CSKA Moskva v Basel, VEB Arena 20:45
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Celtic v Bayern Munchen, Celtic Park 21:45
Sporting CP v Juventus, Estadio Jose Alvalade 21:45
Atletico Madrid v Qarabag, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:45
Manchester United v Benfica, Old Trafford 21:45
PSG v Anderlecht, Parc des Princes 21:45
Basel v CSKA Moskva, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Olympiakos Piraeus v Barcelona, Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki 21:45
Roma v Chelsea, Stadio Olimpico 21:45
Wednesday, 01 November 2017
Besiktas v Monaco, Vodafone Stadyumu 19:00
Liverpool v Maribor, Anfield 21:45
Porto v RB Leipzig, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Sevilla v Spartak Moskva, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v APOEL, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:45
Napoli v Manchester City, Stadio San Paolo 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid, Wembley Stadium 21:45
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