Griezmann scores from spot as Atletico beats Leicester 1-0

Griezmann scores from spot as Atletico beats Leicester 1-0

MADRID — Antoine Griezmann converted a first-half penalty kick to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Leicester in their first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, keeping the Spanish club on track to make it to the final for a second straight season.

Griezmann coolly scored from the spot in the 28th minute by sending goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way with a firm strike into the left corner.

The penalty came after Griezmann was clipped by Leicester defender Marc Albrighton after making a long run down the left flank. Griezmann appeared to be still outside the area when he was fouled.

“We played a very good game,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “Maybe we needed to be a bit more aggressive to get a better result, but we have to understand that even after going down a goal our opponent stayed playing tightly on defence. They were clearly looking to take that result to the second match.”

Simeone’s Atletico is trying to reach the semifinals for the third time in four seasons, while Leicester — the shock Premier League winner last season — is looking to make another stunning title run in its debut in the Champions League.

“To come here and still be in the game was the main objective,” Leicester midfielder Andy King said. “We know we are strong at home and I am sure we can cause them problems.”

The second leg takes place Tuesday in England.

Atletico was in control from the start at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, creating several scoring chances while restraining Leicester. The hosts had three clear opportunities less than 15 minutes into the match, with Koke striking the right post with a long-range shot as early as the fourth minute.

Leicester had no attempts on target for the entire game. The visitors played better in the second half than the first but still couldn’t create any significant danger to the Atletico defence.

“We are still alive,” Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare said. “But we know we still have a challenge ahead against a very good team. We have a very good record at (home), the fans really enjoy these Champions League nights, although we know we’ll have to create more chances than we did tonight.”

Shakespeare criticized the penalty decision.

“It was one of the major decisions in the game,” he said. “It was definitely a foul, but it was outside the box.”

The penalty came as fans were still loudly celebrating the announcement that Bayern Munich had just opened the scoring against city rival Real Madrid in Germany. The defending European champions were able to mount a comeback, though, winning 2-1 with a pair of goals by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Griezmann had already been decisive when he scored a late equalizer against Madrid in the teams’ 1-1 draw in the Spanish league over the weekend at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Wednesday’s win extended Atletico’s unbeaten run in all competitions to nine matches. It has conceded only two goals in its last eight games.

Atletico has won 29 of its last 35 games in European competitions at the Vicente Calderon.

It was the second consecutive loss for Leicester, which had been thriving since Shakespeare replaced Claudio Ranieri after a struggling start to the season. The English club won six straight games until a league loss at Everton on Sunday, when several regular starters were rested.

Atletico lost last year’s Champions League final in a penalty shootout against Madrid. It also fell to the city rival in the final three seasons ago, and was eliminated by Madrid in the quarterfinals in 2014-15.

Leicester eliminated Spanish club Sevilla in this season’s Round of 16.

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More AP Champions League coverage: http://apne.ws/2lgcPZm

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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press