LEICESTER, England — Three thoughts from Leicester’s 2-0 victory over Sevilla at the King Power Stadium, which sees the reigning Premier League champions advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate.
Leicester City are heroes again after a night that surely makes their season’s toils seem worthwhile. A Champions League quarterfinal spot is theirs, and while it may have taken some twisted logic to predict that when this tie was drawn, the Foxes defied it thrillingly in front of a home crowd who must have thought they had already seen everything.
A scrappy effort from Wes Morgan in the first half and a sweet drive from Marc Albrighton in the second made history for Leicester here, and that only told part of the story. Keeper Kasper Schmeichel’s penalty save from Steven N’Zonzi — 10 minutes from time and moments after Samir Nasri had been sent off — was his second of this round-of-16 tie and proved the decisive moment as Leicester confounded expectations once more.
Sevilla could, in fact, have dulled the mood within four minutes of the start. It took a sharp save from Schmeichel, repelling Nasri’s shot at his near post, to stop the visitors from edging further ahead in the tie. Pablo Sarabia cut a 20-yard effort wide as Sevilla, despite a predictably high-tempo approach from Leicester, created the better early openings.
Yet Leicester made their first one count. When Riyad Mahrez delivered a free kick to the far post from the left corner of the box it was Morgan, beating the weak challenge of Gabriel Mercado, who bundled the ball home with his right thigh. Now it was game on; Sevilla had to score to keep the hosts from progressing.
They briefly threatened to do so in the aftermath of Morgan’s goal but Leicester, aware that an hour camping in their own area was a nonstarter, wrested a degree of territorial initiative and held out until the break in relative comfort.
The visitors needed something different and it was little surprise to see Jorge Sampaoli introduce Mariano Ferreira and Steven Jovetic for the second half. In the 53rd minute they came within inches of equalising when Sergio Escudero, taking aim 30 yards out, thudded the underside of the bar with Wissam Ben Yedder volleying the rebound wastefully over.
It was a key moment. Within two minutes Albrighton, lashing past a static Sergio Rico after a Mahrez cross had been poorly cleared by Adil Rami, put Leicester ahead in the tie for the first time.
Sevilla pressed, but when Nasri — who had already been booked — pushed his head into that of Jamie Vardy after an altercation between the pair and was rightly dismissed, it seemed as if Sevilla had folded. Schmeichel’s penalty-saving heroics, which came four minutes later after he had fouled Vitolo, were the final twist.
“We are the champions,” sang the crowd as the clock wound down and, for the first time in some while, you believed them.