Saul Niguez
Niguez's first half goal left Leicester needing three goals to progress - for once a challenge too far. Reuters


  • The Foxes fairytale reaches a climax as Diego Simeone's men reach the semi-finals.
  • Jamie Vardy cancels out Saul Niguez header as second leg finishes 1-1
  • Antoine Griezmann's penalty from the first leg gave Atletico the cushion to send them through.

On a day when the United Kingdom's political landscape took a giant stride towards becoming unequivocally blue in an effort to complete the country's speedy divorce from Europe, a product of one of its greatest exports had to be surgically removed from the continent. Leicester City had scrapped their way the last eight of the Champions League but came up against a continental superpower in Atletico Madrid who possessed just enough class and quality to reach the semi-finals for the third time in four years.

Perhaps much like the imminent general election, the underdog produced a plucky and at times spirited display before eventually being overpowered. Only on this occasion, those in royal blue were on the losing end of the result. Saul Niguez struck the vital goal in the first half with a sublime header and though Jamie Vardy did level on the night and sparked a flurry of chances, the side from the Spanish capital weathered the storm. It is doubtful the result after 8 June will be anywhere near as close.

The challenge that faced the Foxes may not have been posed by one of Europe's heavyweight names, but the reputation of Diego Simeone's side goes before them. Possessing the best defence in Europe and arguably the continent's most sought-after player in Antoine Griezmann they were very much the Conservatives to Leicester's Labour.

Leicester patched up their captain Wes Morgan in the absence of the suspended Robert Huth in an effort to relive the glories of last season. If their domestic performances have only rarely been reflective of Premier League champions, the pre-show was anything but sub-standard. Fireworks, incessant jets of white smoke, thousands of foil flags in the hands of the home support and the deafening riffs of Kasabian gave a rustic feel to a very cosmopolitan occasion.

Jamie Vardy
Vardy's goal on the hour gave Leicester brief hope. Reuters

Much like the first leg, Leicester lived with their illustrious opponents for much of the opening half an hour. Morgan hung desperately onto the coattails of Griezmann, Wilfred Ndidi shepherded Yannick Carrasco and Vardy kept Diego Godin honest.

But when your hopes rest on such fine margins and rely on impossible powers of concentration, you constantly sit on the precipice of disaster. When Leicester did switch off, just like in the first leg a week ago, Atletico took full advantage. Felipe Luis crossed brilliantly and though Saul was unmarked he still had to produce a fine header back across Kasper Schmeichel to beat the Dane and find the corner.

For much of what followed, Atletico were the epitome of the professional European outfit; soaking up pressure from the hosts before flashes highlighted their quality. Griezmann produced one of those, ghosting past three defenders but his square ball was beyond the outstretched Carrasco with the goal gaping, with Marc Albrighton suspiciously close to conceding what would have been a fatal penalty.

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann performed the role of spectator for much of the second half as Leicester dominated the latter stages. Reuters

The valiant attempts from Leicester to breach a defence beaten just 24 times in La Liga this season produced yet more miracles. Half-time substitute Ben Chilwell's shot was saved by Jan Oblak but the loose ball was smashed home by Vardy. The celebrations from the home faithful verged on the hysterical, a reminder perhaps that only eight years ago the club were playing League One football.

Suddenly a tie which had blown in one direction for long periods of both legs had transformed completely. Manager Craig Shakespeare was parachuted into the role of chief ball boy, replacement Leonardo Ulloa was a colossus; Chilwell a rampaging full-back who would have given Carlos Alberto a run for his money and Mahrez became the slick wideman which had earned him the PFA Player of the Year award last season.

Much like the approach of our esteemed Prime Minister Theresa May, the approach was route one and hardly pretty. The intensity affected Leicester's composure and eventually the result. But they were almost doomed to fail; the fairytale ending as the cramped body of Morgan limped to the touchline - an embodiment of the effort exert by England's final representative in the competition. Leicester gave blood, sweat and tears for the cause and just for once it wasn't enough.