Leicester vs Atletico Madrid: Five things we learned as Diego Simeone's men see off the Foxes

Samuel Lovett
The Independent
Saul Niguez's header proved enough to send the La Liga side through: Getty
Saul Niguez's header proved enough to send the La Liga side through: Getty

Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with Leicester at the King Power Stadium, 2-1 on aggregate, to reach the last four of the Champions League and continue their march towards European glory.

Against an experienced and intelligent Atletico side, the Foxes' hopes of overturning their one-goal deficit were always to go be slim.

Leicester acquitted themselves with passion and that 'never-say-die' attitude which served them so well last but, on this occasion, it wasn't enough.

Saul Niguez's sublime header, coming in 26th minute, proved to be the difference and although Craig Shakespeare's men hit back through Jamie Vardy, victory always looked assured for the visitors.

Here's five things we learned...

Leicester bow out in style

And so, after 21 months of magic, the curtain finally closes on the Leicester City fairytale. 'Unbelievable' doesn't quite do justice to what this small club from the East Midlands have achieved. Against the hegemony of the Premier League's money men, the Foxes defied the odds to mark their place in the history books of English football. Eight years ago to the day the side clinched promotion into the Championship after beating Southend United 2-0 at Roots Hall. Today they bowed out in style against the quality and power of Atletico Madrid - one of Europe’s premium clubs. Dogged, electric and resilient to the end, the Foxes refused to roll over as they gave chase to the impossible. They exit Europe with their heads held high.

Atletico’s experience shines through

On the occasion, Atletico’s experience and quality shone through. The visitors started the game more than happy to let Leicester push on in search of their breakthrough. Calm and composed, Simeone’s side set the tempo of the game - despite the Foxes’ surprising amount of possession. Although Leicester eventually found their goal through Vardy’s scrambled close-range effort, the victory was never in doubt. With 30 minutes to go, Leicester still needed two goals against a side with one of the best defences in Europe. Stefan Savić and Diego Godín excelled in their central defensive positions, winning their majority of challenges both in the air and on the deck. Atletico were certainly tested but their resilience ensured this was to be their night.

Stefan Savic and Jamie Vardy battle for the ball at the King Power (Getty)
Stefan Savic and Jamie Vardy battle for the ball at the King Power (Getty)

Morgan digs deep to impress on his return

For Morgan, it was a respectable return to the game after a seven-game absence through back injury. It wasn’t the best of starts for the Leicester captain, however. An undercooked back-pass in the opening minutes forced Kasper Schmiechel into emergency measures, with the keeper outfoxing the high-pressing Antoine Griezmann to boot the ball clear. Such nerves were to be expected, but the Leicester captain soon settled in to game. In spite of his three-week lay-off, the 33-year-old remained as physical as ever. On the 10-minute mark, Morgan dispossessed Carrasco, who had built up speed and set a dangerous course for Leicester’s goal, with a well-timed challenge that set a precedent for the rest of his night. He impressed with a number of crucial tackles and interceptions and fought on till the bitter until injury forced him to depart.

Ndidi continues to make a name for himself

It was another assured performance from the 20-year-old (Getty)
It was another assured performance from the 20-year-old (Getty)

A future star in the making. The 20-year-old showed all the qualities of a great midfielder tonight. Reliable in his break-up play, assured in his passing and demonstrated a knack to show up in the right places at the right time. Some of his attempted shots on goal may have been overly audacious but, given his age, such confidence will only serve him well in the years to come as he hones his trade. Leicester will do well to hold on to him next season.

Griezmann more than just an attacking threat

Griezmann put in a busy performance for the visitors (Getty)
Griezmann put in a busy performance for the visitors (Getty)

Manchester United are prepared to pay more than £100m for Antoine Griezmann this summer for his goals, sharpness and penalty box instincts. And yet here he was not just the first but often one of the last lines of defence for a team where everyone is prepared to get his hands dirty. Griezmann was snapping into tackles and blocks on the edge of his own penalty area, once crucially on Vardy, surging at goal, just before the break. After half-time he even cleared one cross from his own penalty area with an overhead kick. More than just an attacking threat, the Frenchman showcased his roundness as a player.

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