Leicester City wrote another chapter in their remarkable story as they overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Sevilla and reach the Champions League quarter-finals on a night of raw passion at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes looked in trouble after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Spain that was the catalyst for the sacking of Claudio Ranieri – the manager who had guided them into this competition after winning the Premier League nine months ago.
Now, with Ranieri gone and Craig Shakespeare in charge, Leicester have been transformed, and they were on their way to another spectacular triumph when captain Wes Morgan bundled them into a first-half lead.
It put Leicester in control of the tie, a supremacy they emphasised when Marc Albrighton drilled home a second nine minutes after the interval, seconds after Sergio Escudero hit the bar for the visitors.
Leicester survived a frantic final spell when Samir Nasri picked up a second yellow card for a clash of heads with Jamie Vardy – who missed two great chances – keeper Kasper Schmeichel saved a penalty from Steven N’Zonzi that could have taken the tie into extra time and Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli was sent to the stands as tensions reached boiling point.
The victory means the Foxes join the illustrious company of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Real Madrid in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
On Wednesday, Manchester City go to Monaco and Atletico Madrid play Bayer Leverkusen to determine the final two sides in the last eight.
Leicester’s miracle men strike again
Leicester’s place in the Premier League was under threat by the time they lost the first leg of this Champions League tie in Sevilla – and it looked like Ranieri’s sacking was another chapter in the story of a dramatic fall from grace.
Now, in the space of three weeks, the Foxes have gone from misery to another potential miracle as Sevilla, so highly rated, third in La Liga and Europa League winners three years in succession, were beaten back by a tide of passion and emotion at the King Power Stadium.
The despair of the early months of the season, when the stricken and out of sorts Premier League champions looked a world away from last season’s team, has been forgotten.
When Italian referee Daniele Orsato blew the final whistle after the rawest of encounters, this atmospheric arena was suddenly engulfed in the sort of scenes it witnessed last May when Leicester won the title – the sort of scenes that no-one could have imagined seeing again when Ranieri was sacked amid shock and sadness on 23 February.
As Leicester fans danced and sang in their seats, they were contemplating another unlikely, unthinkable story – a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Shakespeare makes his case
Shakespeare has been appointed manager until the end of the season – and if he carries on in his current vein he might be able to name his price.
He has already moved Leicester away from relegation trouble with two Premier League wins out of two against Liverpool and Hull, but this is the sort of victory upon which reputations are made and jobs secured.
Shakespeare, assistant to Ranieri in that title campaign, has simply turned the dial back nine months, restored Leicester City’s title-winning team – with Wilfred Ndidi for the departed N’Golo Kante – and style, with spectacular results.
The giant banner unfurled before kick-off, with a nod to William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, read: “Let Slip The Dogs of War” and that is exactly what he has done.
Leicester City’s owners can take their time and weigh up their options with Shakespeare at the helm, but he is stating his own case very eloquently.
Leicester’s owners vindicated
Leicester’s Thai owners came in for heavy scrutiny after taking the ruthless, business-led decision to sack the popular Ranieri nine months after he took Leicester to the title in arguably the greatest story in British sport.
It was made with a heavy heart but a clear head as they feared the Foxes were heading to the Championship. Events since have suggested the decision, which risked popularity and status, was correct.
The familiar saying describes football as a “results-based business” – and the results since Ranieri’s sacking have justified his dismissal, however harsh it might have been at a human level.
Man of the match – Kasper Schmeichel
Morgan’s milestone – the stats
- The Foxes are the first English side to overcome a first leg defeat against Spanish opposition in the Champions League knockout stages since Chelsea in 2005 (v Barcelona).
- Riyad Mahrez has been directly involved in six of Leicester’s 10 Champions League goals this season (four goals and two assists).
- The Algerian’s assist means he has either scored or assisted in consecutive games for Leicester for the first time since November 2016.
- Kasper Schmeichel has saved both of his penalties in the Champions League this season, one in each leg against Sevilla.
- Sevilla are the first team to miss a penalty in each leg of a Champions League knockout round since Bayern Munich in 2013-14 (v Arsenal).
- The game’s opening goal was the 48th shot Sevilla had faced away from home in the Champions League this season, but the first goal they conceded.
- Wes Morgan became the first Jamaican player to score in a Champions League game.
Leicester’s attention once again turns to Premier League survival. The Foxes are three points above the relegation zone in 15th and travel to West Ham on Saturday aiming for a third successive league win.
Source: BBC Football