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1997 : O’Neill fuming after ref helps dump foxes out of Europe

This week in Leicester City’s history we go back 20 years once more

Mustafa Izzet of Leicester City
Izzet a penalty?

We here at Fosse Posse love to bring you the latest news and opinions on our great football club, which we all love, Leicester City. But we also like to reminisce and look through blue tinted glasses at how our team have come through the last 133 years.

We’ll delve way back and highlight the likes of Arthur Chandler, Frankie Wortho and others, as well as Cup Finals, landmark achievements and moments that have just filled us with joy (and sometimes despair)!

Tuesday 30th September 1997

UEFA Cup First Round Second Leg

Leicester City 0 Atletico Madrid 2 (Agg 1-4)

We’re gonna take another look back 20 years as Leicester City embarked on their first European campaign for nearly 30 odd years on another magical evening at Filbert Street.

City had taken the lead 2 weeks earlier in the Vicente Calderon Stadium through Ian Marshall but had come away with nothing, as Madrid turned it around to win 2-1.

However the away goal meant that a tight game at Filbo could see the inexperienced Premiership team pull off a shock and beat one of Europe’s giants over the two legs.

Ticker tape and balloons filled the stadium as the 2 teams came out to a thunderous show of support as European football came to Leicester for the first time since 1961.

There was a surprise starter for the foxes in Julian Watts, recently returned from a loan spell at Crewe who was thrown straight in to action, partnering Matt Elliott at the back.

However within 5 minutes of the start, Watts was exposed and it could have been all over for City, after Kiko flicked a shot onto the bar, with Keller stranded.

Leicester though started to get into the game more, particularly Muzzy Izzet who’s driving runs into the box were causing havoc in the Madrid defense.

Pontus Kaamark was doing his best to shackle Juninho, as he had done the previous season in the League Cup final victory over Middlesboro, but found himself free in the box to flash a shot just past the post midway through the first half.

Izzet had two genuinely solid looking claims for penalties in the first half which were not given by French referee Remi Harrel but with these and a Matt Elliott header just wide, City went into half time on top.

Leicester we’re ready to take the game to the Spaniards from the off, and on 50 minutes the advantage seemed to swing in City’s favour as Lopez was sent off for a second booking after he brought Heskey down.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the only sending off of the game, as 9 minutes later Garry Parker was bizarrely given his matching orders after taking a free-kick too quickly.

Izzet again won a free-kick just outside the box, after driving forward and being fouled for the umpteenth time. The wall was lined up and Parker decided to try a quick one with keeper Jose Molina across his goal.

Ref Harrel didn’t take too kindly to this and promptly gave Parker a yellow, before releasing he’d booked him in the first half and so sent him off.

This didn’t stop City and again Izzet took the ball on and ran into the box, and looked to be clipped but no penalty came.

A frustrating night for City and the fans turned into despair though as with 18 minutes to go, Juninho gained his revenge from last season as he finished off a break away down the right as City pushed forward for a goal.

The same route was used again several minutes later as Jose Mari speed down the right and this time Kiko finished off the cross to end the tie.

City’s European dream was over as quick as it started, though a kinder draw wouldn’t have gone a miss, but the fans we’re proud of what they saw and the atmosphere was electric throughout the evening.

Post-match, O’Neill criticised the ref, describing the penalty claims as “blatant” and suggesting that the game was “one we couldn’t win”. He escaped punishment for his comments and Harrel was soon removed from the UEFA list.

Little did we know that nearly 20 years later we would have another amazing European adventure in the Champions League, only to be ended again by Atletico Madrid!