Atlético outfoxes Shakespeare’s side with taste of own medicine
MADRID, April 13: Leicester City’s gameplan was clear, and understandable – to soak up Atleti pressure and attempt to hit them on the break. But while the long ball over the top towards Jamie Vardy was crucial in their title-winning season, Atleti were wise to it. Vardy was isolated for long periods and on the rare occasions Leicester found space in midfield, they were quickly chased out of possession.
It was as if Leicester were facing themselves last season. Atleti also nullified the threat of Riyad Mahrez by forcing him out wide in the first half while Antoine Griezmann’s movement between Wilfred Ndidi and Robert Huth was a constant problem for the visiting team. But the tie remains delicately poised at 1-0 to Diego Simeone’s side.
Eriksson makes Leicester pay penalty for his shortcomings
It was Rémi Harrel 20 years ago, and now Leicester will be cursing the name of Jonas Eriksson. The Swedish referee provided the pivotal moment with an utterly abysmal decision, awarding a penalty to Atleti when Marc Albrighton’s daft challenge on Griezmann was clearly outside the area.
Eriksson has previous, once managing to even infuriate former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, and was perfectly placed to make a better judgement. Eriksson also ignored Mahrez’s tumble in the box, a decision which could have gone either way.
Schmeichel is given night off by Atleti strikers
Kasper Schmeichel must have envisaged an extremely busy night but the reality is that he barely had a save to make. He was nowhere near Koke’s shot which hit the post in the fifth minute, but was content to watch efforts from distance sail harmlessly wide. This was nothing like the Sevilla game, where Schmeichel produced an incredible performance.
Atleti’s failure to transform their dominance into more goals has given Leicester a genuine chance of reaching the semi-finals and Craig Shakespeare would surely have taken a slim 1-0 defeat before kick-off. Yohan Benalouane, whose inclusion in the starting XI was a worry for some supporters, did not let Leicester down.
Man of the match: Antoine Griezmann
It could not be anybody else but the France international, who underlined why he is regarded one of the best five players in Europe.
A constant menace in the first half, finding pockets of space and exposing any Leicester hesitancy, Griezmann was the difference. However, like Atlético, he did fade in the second period.
What Atlético Madrid must do next
With only three defeats from the last 26 games Atleti will fancy their chances of progression and an early goal at the King Power Stadium could prove pivotal. Their ability to hit teams on the break away from home, as they proved emphatically against Bayer Leverkusen, makes them a far tougher proposition than Sevilla.
What Leicester must do next
Leicester will undoubtedly be feeling a burning sense of injustice from that controversial refereeing decision, but should use it as inspiration for the second leg. Robert Huth will be suspended for the rematch after being booked here and Shakespeare is facing an anxious wait to discover if Wes Morgan can return from a back injury.THE TELEGRAPH