Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare insisted he was proud of his players despite seeing their remarkable run in the UEFA Champions League come to an end at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, according to a statement on the club website (www.lcfc.com).
Facing a 1-0 first leg deficit, the Foxes needed to score three on Tuesday after Saúl Niguez headed Atlético into a 2-0 aggregate lead, but Jamie Vardy’s second half strike gave them hope going into a frantic final period.
Despite having plenty of chances, they were unable to find a second goal and the tie end 1-1 on the night (2-1 to Madrid on aggregate), ending a sparkling run for the Foxes who had briefly threatened to dethrone Europe’s elite.
Afterwards, the manager said: “I’m disappointed to go out but immensely proud of our performance tonight. I thought we ran an excellent team [close] in the form Madrid and we gave it a real shot. The players can be immensely proud of their performance, but we’re ultimately disappointed to go out.
“I hope the benefit is that they want some more of it (Champions League football). They’re very disappointed but they can be proud of what they’ve achieved. As a football club we can be proud of how we’ve conducted ourselves but they should want more of this because the Champions League is the highest level. To do that we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League.”
Shakespeare admits that he knew Leicester would face a challenge against experienced opposition, but that he had worked on several different approaches in the build up in the event of the visitors taking the lead.
“We had planned different scenarios in advance,” he said. “I didn’t expect to make changes that early but we needed to be more of a threat in their half, especially in front of goal. We spoke about playing direct, playing Jamie Vardy off Leonardo Ulloa and playing with wing-backs. We’d worked and spoken about it, but I didn’t expect to do it that early.
“The players attitude towards making that work was first class and you could see in the second half that we got the goal, but not the breaks we needed to get more.
“I’ve said before that their (Atlético’s) history speaks for itself – finalists in two of the last three years. We knew what kind of challenge would be put in front of us but we knew from the first leg that we still felt in the tie. We had a right go tonight but ultimately we’ve just failed at the last hurdle,” Shakespeare added.