Football

Shakespeare targets Champions League return for Leicester

Proud Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare challenged his players to fire the club back to the Champions League after their European dream ended yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The English Premier League champions were knocked out of the quarter-finals 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in the second leg at the King Power Stadium.

Saul Niguez's first-half header gave the visitors an away goal and put the tie out of Leicester's reach despite Jamie Vardy's second-half equaliser.

The Foxes, 12th in the Premier League, will not play in Europe next season and Shakespeare hopes this year's run will inspire his players.

He said: "I hope the benefit is they want some more of it. They are very disappointed, but can be proud of what they've achieved.

"As a football club, we can be proud of how we've conducted ourselves. All players want to play at the highest level and the Champions League is the highest level, but we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now.

"The feeling is one of disappointment to go out, but I'm immensely proud of the performance. We got the goal and couldn't quite get the breaks which was needed to get more."

Shakespeare also said he would welcome any early talks about his future, with his short-term contract as manager expiring in June.

He said: "It's not in my hands. It's in the club's hands.

"I've said we'd sit down at the end of the season. I'm more than happy to do that before if it arises, but the contract says until the end of the season.

"I've enjoyed it, pitting your wits against one of the best managers (Diego Simeone) in the world, one of the best sides in the world.

"I'm not looking that far ahead, we have to concentrate on points in the Premier League and climbing up the league."

Vardy became the first Englishman to score in a Champions League quarter-final since Frank Lampard five years ago when he smashed in after Ben Chilwell's deflected shot fell to him.

But Leicester, who needed to score three to progress, could not force another one and England striker Vardy said the Foxes gave all they could.

He told BT Sport: "We've given our all, especially in the second half. They made a few blocks on the line which, on another day, would've gone in.

"It was just unfortunate we didn't get the result we wanted. It wasn't to be but at least everyone gave it his all. The lads can be proud of themselves, they've given everything."

Atletico have now reached their third semi-final in four years, but boss Simeone admitted the Rojiblancos survived a major scare.

He said: "I'm full of emotions, full of pride for the performance of my team. Full of hope and excitement as we progress.

"But I have to say what a great performance from Leicester. It was almost a pleasure to compete against them.

"We were living in fear all night of what they might achieve. They pushed us all the way." - PA SPORT

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