In the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal at the Vincente Calderón, Atlético Madrid earned a credible result
The first half was utter dominance from Atleti, controlling possession, as well as chances. Though many of their efforts were from outside of the area, they were numerous in number, and undoubtedly controlled the match. The key moment of the match came just before the half hour mark when Marc Albrighton was judged by the referee to have given away a penalty following a foul on Antoine Griezmann. It was the man who scored it to take, and he duly did, continuing his hot spring streak.
Leicester will undoubtedly feel the penalty call was harsh, as the foul did take place on the line, or perhaps just outside of the area. Either way, the foul continued into the box, which was likely the reason the penalty was given. Atleti put up 10 shots in the first half, of which three were on target, while Leicester had two, one blocked, the other well off target, and both were from outside the area.
After halftime, with a lead in hand, Atleti did what they do best, and shut the game down. They did this in a somewhat unconventional way, by retaining possession, but not probing Leicester as much as they could have, killing time and any sort of chance of a Leicester counter attack. Fernando Torres had a chance to kill the game and make it 2-0, but slipped and whiffed quite humorously, bless him.
As a whole, Atlético played extremely well, but the standout performances came from midfield, as Saúl and Gabi were utterly dominant, winning challenges all over the pitch, and keeping the ball moving for Atleti. Atleti’s resurgence in the second half of this season has quite a lot to do with Saúl making the center of midfield his own, alongside Gabi, who has been truly wonderful throughout the season.
Both of Diego Simeone’s substitutions were perfect for the match and the way the game was going. Ángel Correa again came on, this time for Carrasco, and made a big difference with his pace and energy, making driving runs and creating opportunities for himself and others. Thomas Partey was solid again this match, after coming on for Fernando Torres. His development at Atleti has been clear to see, and he has the potential to be an extremely useful player for Atleti for years to come, should he ever start a game.
In terms of their shape, Atleti were fully committed to controlling the match at all times during the game, with Torres and Carrasco often the most advanced players, with Griezmann and Koke just behind. Leicester were totally unable to get much at all going in terms of offense in this game, and struggled to test Jan Oblak, who could have had a nice little sleep for parts of this match.
Leicester were served a huge blow in the second half when Robert Huth was yellow carded for a foul, which will see him miss the next leg. And with Wes Morgan injured, Leicester’s defense could be in big trouble in the second leg, should Atleti surge forward. An away goal would most likely kill this tie off if Atleti get it next week.
Overall this was a solid performance from Atleti, who are in a strong position going into next week’s game. Leicester will be relying heavily on their home crowd to get them back in this tie, so Atleti must stamp their mark on the match early in next week’s game.