Advantage Atlético as Griezmann downs Leicester
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Antoine Griezmann converted a first-half penalty as Atlético edged closer to a third semi-final in four seasons but battling Leicester clung on to keep their hopes alive.
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Antoine Griezmann converted a first-half penalty as Atlético won 1-0 to edge closer to a third UEFA Champions League semi-final in three seasons.
The home side started like a train, leaving Leicester firmly in their tracks. Koke rattled the upright inside four minutes and, with Fernando Torres busy in the attacking third, a goal seemed only a matter of time.
Surprisingly, when it arrived on 28 minutes, it came from a counterattack – less startlingly, Griezmann was the source. With the visitors enjoying a rare attack, the France forward collected the ball deep inside his own half and scampered down the left at searing pace.
Marc Albrighton brought him down and the referee judged that it was in the penalty area. Griezmann duly converted his first penalty of the season (at the fourth attempt).
Atleti were soon in search of another but Leicester battled gamely and their hopes are very much alive ahead of Tuesday's second leg in England.
Key player: Antoine Griezmann
In a match of few clear openings, the Frenchman once again made the difference for the Colchoneros, winning and then converting the penalty for his fifth strike of this UEFA Champions League campaign. There was so much more to admire about his performance in the first period: his ability to find pockets of space in front of the Leicester defence and his outstanding awareness of the players around him. Leicester did well to limit that threat in the second half.
Koke dictates tempo
The local-born midfielder has rotated between a central role and playing on either flank this term and tonight his versatility paid off as he seamlessly drifted between the three positions as well as appearing alongside the front two. He frequently fed Torres and Griezmann and also managed three shots at goal of his own, smacking the bar and firing narrowly over.
Jamie Vardy went into this game with his ears still warm from the pre-match plaudits of Diego Simeone, following his hot streak of seven goals in the past month. Yet this was a frustrating night for the striker. Though he latched onto one trademark early long pass and flashed a ball across goal, that would be as good as it got. It was an even quieter evening for his partner-in-crime from last season, Riyad Mahrez, but Leicester's discipline and organisation further back kept them in the tie.
Richard Martin, Atlético (@UEFAcomRichardM)
Craig Shakespeare said before the game the focus should not just be on Griezmann, and though he was the match winner, this was a complete display from Simeone's team – a ninth consecutive clean sheet at home in UEFA Champions League knockout ties. The back four was well protected by continued possession and screened superbly by Gabi and Saúl Ñíguez, while Diego Godín and Stefan Savić in particular dealt superbly with any balls into the box. Jan Oblak had little to do.
Simon Hart, Leicester (@UEFAcomSimonH)
When Leicester came away from Seville with a 2-1 defeat in the last 16, it was thanks largely to Kasper Schmeichel's Superman impersonation. Encouragingly for the visitors, they did not face anything like that onslaught on their return to Spain. Shakespeare should take credit for his tactical switch midway through his first European away game as a manager. His half-time introduction of Andy King for Shinji Okazaki gave the Foxes an extra body in the middle of the pitch and let Wilfred Ndidi concentrate on limiting the space for Griezmann to exploit. Now they can dream of another famous night at home next week, though the absence of the now suspended Robert Huth is an undoubted setback.