CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: ATHLETICO MADRID EDGE PAST BRAVE LEICESTER CITY 1-0
Leicester lost to Atletico Madrid after referee Jonas Eriksson made a penalty call that Craig Shakespeare suggested the Swedish official ‘guessed’ at.
Eriksson awarded Atletico a spot-kick converted by Antoine Griezmann when Marc Albrighton fouled the French striker but the contact was clearly outside the area.
Shakespeare praised his defence for holding Diego Simeone’s team to the solitary goal and insisted Leicester could overturn the deficit at the King Power Stadium next Tuesday.
‘We were hard done by on the penalty,’ said Shakespeare. ‘The referee has to get that one right. You can’t guess. It is a definite free-kick but outside the box. Refs have a hard job but you want the key decisions correct.
‘We’re talking about a Champions League quarter final. This major decision could cost us the game.’
Kasper Schmeichel said: ‘The penalty has ruined out game plan. It is tough to take when it is so clear. We should have had something from this but we have to accept it.
They might have scored from what should have been a free-kick but it is easier to score from a penalty.’
Shakespeare added: ‘We are still alive. We know we have to be more open because we need a goal and one of their pluses is their ability on the counter-attack. But we are still in this tie.’
Robert Huth received a second-half yellow card and will be banned for the return leg, leaving Leicester light in defence with Wes Morgan a major doubt through a back injury.
Schmeichel said Huth would be a ‘big loss’ and of captain Morgan, Shakespeare joked: ‘I’ve just told him that when we get back to the hotel, he’s getting his kit on, going to the gym and making sure he does a session.
‘But honestly it is touch and go and we’ll have to look at team shape over the next few days. He has been out on the grass for the last few days, and we hope he will be all right.
‘We were always on the tightrope with people like Robert because he’s a very competitive centre-half.’
Leicester’s sports scientist Tom Joel was sent to the stands late on for giving Marc Albrighton water in front of the Atletico bench, who appeared to complain to the fourth official. ‘It was a genuine mistake,’ said Shakespeare. ‘There was nothing sinister in it. Albrighton had stomach cramps.’
Simeone did not shake hands with Shakespeare at the final whistle but that is customary for the Atletico Madrid manager, who said: ‘My tem played a very good game. Maybe we lacked that clinical finish. But after 1-0 our rival defended really well. They were maybe hoping to get us on the counter attack. We couldn’ t get many chances and it seemed they were betting everything on the second leg.’
ATLETICO MADRID (4-4-2): Oblak 6, Juanfran 6.5, Godin 6.5, Savic 7, Filipe Luis 6.5; Gabi 7.5, Saul 6.5, Carrasco 7 (Correa 65), Koke 7.5; Griezmann 8, Torres 6 (Partey 75)
Subs not used: Cerci, Hernandez, Gaitan, Gimenez, Campos Moreira
Goals: Griezmann (28 pen)
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Schmeichel 6, Simpson 6.5, Benalouane 7, Huth 7, Fuchs 6.5; Drinkwater 6, Ndidi 6; Mahrez 7, Albrighton 6.5; Okazaki 6 (King 45), Vardy 6.5 (Slimani 77)
Subs not used: Chilwell, Amartey, Zieler, Gray, Ulloa
Booked: Benalouane, Albrighton, Huth
Referee: Jonas Eriksso
About the penalty, It was, quite definitely, a foul. It was a rash challenge by Marc Albrighton and for that reason a very silly thing to do. And on the balance of play, it is hard to argue that Atletico Madrid were not worth the win.
But Albrighton’s trip on Antoine Griezmann was outside the box, and by a reasonable distance, and that much should have been clear to referee Jonas Eriksson, who pointed to the spot with confidence unmatched by competence.
So, bottom line, Leicester were worth a draw. A goalless draw, true, because it is hard to get any other kind when you haven’t had a shot on target all game, but a draw just the same.
Those waiting feverishly for Leicester’s players to get their comeuppance over the ennui that forced Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal remain frustrated. They are in with a chance next week, even if problems are mounting in defence with Robert Huth’s suspension impacting on Wes Morgan’s injury absence. They need their captain back for this one, and how.
To put it into context, though, Andy King came on for Shinji Okazaki at half-time and when one considers that eight years ago this week he was playing for Leicester in division three against a club that doesn’t even exist any more, Hereford United, it shows the strides the club have made just to be here.
The biggest problem for Leicester is that this is equally a game that plays to Atletico’s strength. Counter-attacking against a team that needs to score. It’s how they won on Wednesday night. Well that and our familiar friend, human error.