Champions League roundup: Leicester City rekindle fairytale with Sevilla win, Juventus edge past Porto
Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a dramatic late penalty save as Leicester City sank Sevilla 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, after which Claudio Ranieri was sacked as manager, Leicester scored through Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton before Schmeichel repelled Steven N’Zonzi’s spot-kick. It gave them a 3-2 aggregate win and continued a remarkable turnaround under new manager Craig Shakespeare, who has won three games in a row since stepping up from his role as Ranieri’s assistant.
Elsewhere, a first-half penalty from Paulo Dybala helped fire Juventus into the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday after a 1-0 win sent the Serie A champions through 3-0 on aggregate.
“The players can be immensely proud of themselves,” said Shakespeare. “When we needed Kasper the most, he came up trumps. We deserve to be there. We have just knocked out one of the best teams in Europe in my opinion.”
Unrecognisable in the defence of their miraculous Premier League title, Leicester have found solace in the Champions League and have now won all four of their home matches in the competition. They also chose a good time to rediscover a bit of defensive solidity — and good fortune — having previously gone 12 matches without keeping a clean sheet in all competitions.
Sevilla, winners of the last three Europa Leagues, saw Samir Nasri sent off late on after he was shown an extraordinary second yellow card for aiming a headbutt at Jamie Vardy. N’Zonzi might yet have taken the game to extra time after Schmeichel was penalised for catching Vitolo after the forward had dinked a shot past him. But the Dane redeemed himself with a save low to his left, thwarting Sevilla’s hopes of reaching the last eight for the first time since 1958.
“I think maybe we lost it on one or two fine details,” said Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli, who was sent to the stands late on. We didn’t manage to finish our chances.”
The back-to-back 3-1 wins against Liverpool and Hull City overseen by Shakespeare had restored Leicester’s self-belief and the stadium crackled with anticipation prior to kick-off. A carpet of blue and white flags greeted the teams, while Leicester’s fans unveiled a giant banner of Shakespeare, accompanied by the rousing William Shakespeare quote: “Let slip the dogs of war.”
For all the sound and fury generated by the home support, it was Sevilla who procured the first two sights of goal. Nasri, one of eight changes made by Sampaoli, was denied by a one-handed save from Schmeichel in the fourth minute, while Pablo Sarabia dragged wide with his left foot.
But in the 27th minute Leicester took control of the tie, Riyad Mahrez swinging a free-kick into the box after Vicente Iborra had felled Vardy and Morgan bundling home with his right knee. The King Power Stadium erupted with a noise that recalled the triumphs of last year and short of a mishit Gabriel Mercado cross that Schmeichel had to palm over, Leicester reached the break without alarm.
Sampaoli made two changes at half-time, sending on Mariano Ferreira and Stevan Jovetic for Mercado and Sarabia, and eight minutes in his side came within millimetres of restoring their advantage.
Sergio Escudero let fly with a fluttering effort from 35 yards that crashed against the bar before bouncing down and out, with Jovetic hoisting the rebound over.
Barely a minute later Leicester took the lead in the tie outright. Mahrez’s cross from the right was tamely headed away by Adil Rami, allowing Albrighton to chest the ball down and arrow a left-foot drive past a statuesque Sergio Rico. Nasri’s moment of madness arrived shortly after Schmeichel had parried from substitute Joaquin Correa.
With play ongoing, the Frenchman, taking exception to a push from Vardy, squared up to the England striker and lowered his head, prompting a second yellow card from referee Daniele Orsato. Orsato was not prepared to abandon centre-stage and after awarding Sevilla’s penalty, he compounded the visitors’ frustrations by sending the protesting Sampaoli to the stands.
Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo had hailed Juve’s 20-game unbeaten home run in Europe as he played down the Portuguese side’s chances of overturning a 2-0 first leg defeat at the Estadio do Dragao.
And the 43-year-old was right not to talk up their chances. Despite enjoying plenty of possession in a first half that saw the hosts squander a number of chances, their bid ended when right-back Maxi Pereira saw red after handling Gonzalo Higuain’s goal-bound shot five minutes before the break.
Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot and Argentinian playmaker Dybala stepped up to drill into the bottom-right corner as Iker Casillas dived the other way.
Juventus stretched their unbeaten home record in Europe to 21 games — the last time they suffered a home defeat in Europe was a 2-0 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich, in the quarter-finals, in April 2013.
However, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri warned his side must improve, whoever they are drawn against in the last eight.