Shakespeare ‘proud’ of players after 1-1 draw with Atletico
by Amar Azam at Filbert Way
In the end, it all proved too much for Leicester City’s players as they bowed out at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League on Tuesday night.
For all their spirit and willpower, they came up against steelier opposition in the form of Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, falling short against a more experienced and robust team.
A goal from Saul Niguez looked to have put the visitors on their way, leaving Leicester to find three goals without reply to overcome their opponents.
Jamie Vardy gave the reigning Premier League champions hope with a goal on the hour mark. However, they were unable to make any further breakthroughs.
Foxes manager Craig Shakespeare, who had steadied Leicester after a poor season under former boss Claudio Ranieri, was immensely proud of his side’s achievements.
“The whole club, from the supporters to the players to the owners can be immensely proud,” said Shakespeare.
“We had them rattled with the effort and commitment we showed. It’s no discredit to lose to a team of that calibre.”
He added: “I’ve just said to the players that they should want more of this and they’ve agreed that that’s what they want.
“All players want to play at the highest level and the Champions League is the highest level but we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now.”
After a stirring pre-match introduction for both teams, the home fans roared on their team as they looked to make up the one-goal deficit from the first leg.
However, they were dealt a blow when slack defending allowed Saul to plant his close range headed effort beyond Kasper Schmeichel.
Shakespeare rung the changes at half time. Shinji Okazaki and Yohan Benalouane were taken off, as Ben Chilwell and Leonardo Ulloa were introduced.
He also changed formation, bringing in Riyad Mahrez off the flank. It seemed to work with the home side looking re-energised after a lethargic first half in which Diego Simeone’s men dominated the play.
Filbert Way erupted with 30 minutes to go as Vardy slammed the ball in. Suddenly the complexion of the tie changed. Leicester had to score two goals and had a third of the match to do so.
Leicester’s players continued to push for further openings in the second half, but Atletico’s back-line stood firm despite a number of chances for the home side.
Simeone said: “I’m full of emotions, full of pride for the performance of my team. Full of hope and excitement as we progress.
“But I have to say what a great performance from Leicester it was, almost a pleasure to compete against then.”