Leicester City continued to defy expectations in the UEFA Champions League, beating ten-man Sevilla 2-0 in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie on Tuesday night, edging the Spanish side 3-2 on aggregate.
The match was eventful as it involved some cracking goals, a red card and a penalty miss all in the span of 90 minutes!
Interim boss Craig Shakespeare sent out his best possible XI, a virtual given considering the Premier League champions were chasing a 1-2 deficit from the first leg. Jamie Vardy’s goal in Seville had given them hope, however, for they knew if they got an early goal, the pressure would well and truly be on the Spaniards.
And take the lead they did, via an unlikely source in captain Wes Morgan. Riyad Mahrez swung in a free kick from the right and it came straight to the burly defender, who was tightly marked at the far post but somehow managed to get a leg on the ball, giving Leicester a lead against the run of play in the 27th minute.
For Sevilla had utterly dominated the opening exchanges, with Manchester City-loanee Samir Nasri testing Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s reflexes as early as the third minute with a powerful shot from an acute angle.
As things stood, Leicester were through on the away goals rule, but didn't want to sit back on their lead and started to grow into the game and finished the first half the stronger of the sides.
The second period, however, began in the same vein as the first, with the away side asserting control over proceedings and very nearly equalised when Sergio Escudero’s swerving shot from distance beat Schmeichel but clattered against the bar.
Sevilla were knocking on Leicester’s door and just as they looked like they would be able to overwhelm their English opponents, the Foxes delivered a sucker punch. Marc Albrighton scored a well-taken volley from inside the box in the 54th minute after a Mahrez cross had been headed into his path. The midfielder calmly chested the ball and scored what was only his second goal of the season but what just may be the most important of his career.
Samir Nasri then lost his head to get sent off after a scuffle with Jamie Vardy to seemingly consign Sevilla to an exit from the continental completion but they were given a reprieve in the 79th minute by match referee Daniele Orsato when he awarded a 79th minute penalty.
Steven Nzonzi stepped up to take the spot-kick but Schmeichel guessed the direction and made a brilliant save to ensure the tie would not go into extra time.
A bittersweet pill for former manager Claudio Ranieri of course, who oversaw their monumental Premier League triumph last year and was in charge of the team for the first leg. Whether his players initiated a revolt or not, some credit must be given to the affable Italian.
The Foxes are a dangerous team and very much the dark horses as they join the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and other big names in the last eight of Europe’s elite competition.