MADRID (AP) - It could have been worse for Leicester. And it could have been better for Atletico Madrid.
In the end, both teams came away from their Champions League quarterfinal match relatively satisfied and looking ahead to next week’s second leg in England.
Atletico played well Wednesday and should have done better than the narrow 1-0 victory, but the players and coach Diego Simeone were celebrating the advantage they will be carrying into the return match on Tuesday.
“We weren’t aggressive enough in some situations to be able to get a better result, but we still leave with the victory and we didn’t concede any goals,” Simeone said. “We take with us an important triumph.”
Leicester struggled from the start and never threatened Atletico at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, finishing the game with no attempts on target. But the English champions held on and gave themselves a chance to overcome the deficit in the second leg at home.
“We know it is bound to be a very difficult return match, but we have a very good record at King Power Stadium,” Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare said. “Our fans enjoy these Champions League nights, but of course we need to create more chances and we have to make sure that we attack probably a bit more than we did tonight. We are aware of what we need to do for the second leg.”
Leicester’s task would have been much easier if the referee hadn’t awarded Atletico the controversial penalty kick that led to Antoine Griezmann’s winning goal in the first half.
Griezmann made a great run down the left flank and was clipped by defender Marc Albrighton just as he approached the area, prompting the referee to immediately point to the spot. But Griezmann appeared to be outside of the box when he was touched by Albrighton.
“I think we were hard done by,” Shakespeare said. “I think it’s one of the major decisions of the game. It’s a definite foul, but it’s outside the box.”
Leicester stayed tightly locked on defense even after conceding the goal, making sure it headed back to England with a chance. Leicester has a perfect home record in its debut campaign in the Champions League, with four victories and only one goal conceded.
Leicester also had to overcome a first-leg loss to a Spanish club in the last 16, eliminating Sevilla 3-2 on aggregate. It had struggled in the first leg, losing 2-1 in a match in which it was outplayed from the start and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel saved a penalty kick. But it won 2-0 in the return game to keep its surprising run alive.
“We can take them back to ours and hopefully turn over the deficit, like the last tie,” Leicester midfielder Andy King said. “We know we are strong at home and I am sure we can cause them problems.”
Shakespeare will not be able to count on defender Robert Huth, who was shown a yellow card on Wednesday and is suspended for the second leg. It remains unclear if captain Wes Morgan will recover in time from a back injury.
“Robert Huth’s suspension is a big blow for us,” Shakespeare said. “We knew we were walking a tight rope. We are hoping Wes Morgan will recover in time but it will be touch and go.”
Simeone may be boosted by the return of forward Kevin Gameiro, who missed the first leg because of a muscle ailment.
“It’s still open but we have the 1-0 advantage,” Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said. “If we play our game, I’m certain that we will be able to advance.”
More AP Champions League coverage: https://apne.ws/2lgcPZm
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