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Dublin: 4°C Friday 14 May 2021
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Remember when Martin O'Neill's Leicester faced Atletico Madrid 20 years ago?

The Foxes were drawn against a team including Juninho and Christian Vieri for a heated Uefa Cup first round tie.

LEICESTER CITY AND Atletico Madrid meet in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final later this evening.

It’s not the first time the clubs have crossed paths, however. The Spanish club won out 3-1 on aggregate when they faced off in the 1961/62 Cup Winners’ Cup.

Then, in 1997, the Foxes made a return to Europe by earning a place in the Uefa Cup thanks to their League Cup success under current Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

The first round draw pitted them against Atleti, who had qualified for the competition by finishing fifth in La Liga.

Managed by the then Yugoslavian coach Radomir Antic, they had spent big that summer to bring in Italian striker Christian Vieri from Juventus at a cost of £12 million, while Brazilian schemer Juninho arrived from Middlesbrough for £13m.

Leicester’s motley crew, meanwhile, included the likes of Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzet, Robbie Savage, Steve Guppy, Matt Elliott and Emile Heskey.

UEFA Cup First Round Second Leg - Leicester City v Atletico Madrid Brazilian international Juninho was one of Atleti's stars. Source: Steve Etherington

Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium hosted the first leg, where Ian Marshall finished from a Steve Walsh knock-down to grab a crucial away goal after just 11 minutes — stunning the home crowd.

Substitute Steve Claridge had a great effort to double their advantage, but Atleti hit back thanks to Juninho midway through the second half. Two minutes later, they were awarded a contentious penalty and Vieri made no mistake from the spot.

Source: Filbert Street/YouTube

Despite trailing 2-1 going into the return leg at Filbert Street two weeks later, Leicester still believed they could cause an upset.

The visitors went down to 10 men around the hour mark after a bad challenge from Juan Lopez on Emile Heskey, but O’Neill’s men then had a player sent off in controversial circumstances.

When Garry Parker attempted to take a free-kick quickly, referee Remi Harrel flashed a yellow card his way — the midfielder’s second of the evening.

While Leicester were denied a couple of strong penalty shouts and Guppy headed wide of the mark, Juninho and Kiko both scored late on to claim a 2-0 away win.

Source: Filbert Street/YouTube

O’Neill was understandably furious after the final whistle.

“I have to say that the referee must seriously look at his performance tonight,” he said. “He needs to analyse his game and say ‘was this okay?’.

“I’ve had some disappointing moments in my time — I was left out of a European Cup final once in 1979 when the manager didn’t think it was the right thing for to play me as I was coming back from an injury.

But I have never ever been as disappointed for a group of players and the spectators and supporters here than I am tonight. I’m thoroughly disgusted.

“It sounds as if it’s real sour grapes, and I’m quite sure that people will look at it in the cold light of day and say ‘he’s complaining here’, but that was shocking tonight.”

UEFA Cup First Round Second Leg - Leicester City v Atletico Madrid O'Neill applauding the Filbert Street crowd after the second leg. Source: Steve Etherington

Atletico Madrid reached the semi-finals that season — knocking Aston Villa out along the way — but suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat to beaten finalists Lazio.

In the final, goals from Ivan Zamorano, Javier Zanetti and Ronaldo handed the trophy to Inter Milan.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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