It was a raucous, extraordinary evening that ended with Leicester City celebrating the latest chapter in their remarkable story as Craig Shakespeare’s side took their place in the last eight of the Champions League. Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton scored the goals that mean Leicester will join Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus in Friday’s quarter-final draw in Nyon. Just let that soak in for a moment.
It an incredible achievement in every sense and, once again, owed much to Kasper Schmeichel’s brilliant goalkeeping. Having saved a penalty in Seville, the Dane repeated the trick here, denying Steven N’Zonzi late on with one of those moments that makes you wonder whether everything is falling into place for Leicester in this tournament.
What a night for Shakespeare, who is only the third Englishman to manage in the knockout stage of the Champions League. The 53-year-old has now overseen three straight victories since replacing Claudio Ranieri and his latest will live long in the memory for every Leicester supporter.
As for Sevilla, this was a chastening experience, summed up by the sight of Jorge Sampaoli, their manager, being sent to the stands not long after Samir Nasri received a red card following an altercation with Vardy. Nasri took an age to leave the pitch and so did the Leicester players after the final whistle. They were in dreamland.
With thousands of blue and white flags handed out to the home fans and huge banners unveiled as the players walked on to the pitch, including an image of Shakespeare holding a rottweiler straining at the leash, the stage was set for Leicester in what everyone at the club recognised was the biggest game in their 133-year history.
The atmosphere was electric and Leicester fed off the supporters’ energy in a frantic opening period. Playing with controlled aggression and intensity, Leicester snapped into tackles and chased lost causes. Vardy sprinted 30 yards to close down Nicolas Pareja, with the Leicester striker sliding across the turf to make a challenge that was met with huge roars.
Yet Leicester could easily have fallen behind before anyone had chance to catch their breath. Nasri, who was so influential in the first leg, flashed a low shot from 10 yards that Schmeichel, diving low to his left, did well to keep out at the near post.
The pace of the game never let up throughout the first half. Sevilla looked much more accomplished in possession, yet Leicester were making life uncomfortable for Sampaoli’s team, and there were signs of frustration among the visitors as Nasri wildly hacked at Wilfred Ndidi’s heels, earning a booking in the process.
The most significant blow, however, was landed in the Sevilla penalty area just before the half-hour mark. Vardy, twisting and turning on the edge of the 18-yard box, was clumsily brought down by Vicente Iborra, wide on the Leicester left. Riyad Mahrez flighted the free-kick that followed to the far post and Wes Morgan, with not much finesse but plenty of desire, bundled the ball over the line with his right thigh. Cue pandemonium.
The touchpaper was lit and it was always going to be fascinating to see how Sevilla, who had not conceded a goal in their previous three Champions League away games this season, would respond. Leicester would have guessed what was coming as Sevilla started to crank up the pressure, forcing Shakespeare’s side deeper and deeper. Yet Leicester remained resilient and looked much more compact and disciplined than they did in Seville. At one point Mahrez, chasing back towards his own goal, beat N’Zonzi to a far-post header, which was symptomatic of the way Leicester were working for one another.
Sampaoli reacted by making two changes and thought his team had equalised when Sergio Escudero unleashed a tremendous 30-yard shot that beat Schmeichel, struck the underside of the bar and bounced out. Wissam Ben Yedder profligately volleyed over the rebound and the significance of that passage of play soon become clear.
Leicester, in their next attack, went straight up the other end and doubled their lead. Mahrez’s cross from the right failed to pick anyone out but Adil Rami could only head the ball towards the centre of the penalty area, where Albrighton was unmarked. The winger took a couple of touches to steady himself before drilling a low left-footed shot beyond Rico.Now the onus was firmly on Sevilla, yet it was Leicester who came closest to scoring again when Vardy failed to cleanly connect.
Then came the flashpoint involving Nasri and Vardy as the two players squared up to one another, forehead to forehead. Both were booked, with Nasri’s caution his second of the game.
This incredible tie still had another twist as Schmeichel brought down Vitolo, only to redeem himself with a penalty save to his left from N’Zonzi’s low kick.