The fairytale rise of Leicester reached new heights when the English champions reached the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 home win over Sevilla.
Leicester’s 2-1 deficit from the first leg in southern Spain was turned into a 3-2 aggregate victory at an atmospheric King Power Stadium, courtesy of Wes Morgan’s close-range strike in the 27th minute and Marc Albrighton’s goal in the 54th.
Sevilla, who had playmaker Samir Nasri sent off in the 74th minute for a second booking – for a headbutt on Jamie Vardy, would have taken the game to extra time if Steven N’Zonzi had converted a penalty in the 79th minute.
Instead, it was saved low to his left by Kasper Schmeichel, who made amends for giving away the spot kick.
Exactly two years ago, Leicester were in last place in the Premier League after a 0-0 home draw with Hull.
Now, as the unlikely champions of England after winning last season’s Premier League at odds of 5,000-1, the Foxes can look forward to being involved in Friday’s Champions League quarter-finals draw alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus.
“We might just be the surprise team,” Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare said.
“We know there’s going to be some terrific teams, as there were in the previous round.
“We’re in there on merit. Make no mistake about that.”
This was the Foxes’ third straight win since last season’s title-winning coach Claudio Ranieri was fired and replaced by his former assistant Shakespeare, with the team fighting a relegation battle in their Premier League title defence.
“Claudio will always been fondly remembered by everyone at this football club for what he achieved and helped us achieve,” Shakespeare said.
“The performance in the first leg when Claudio was in charge, that gave us the springboard for the result tonight.”
Shakespeare, who will manage the Foxes until at least the end of the season, became just the third English manager – after Bobby Robson and Harry Redknapp – to manage in a Champions League knockout game.
“It will be memorable for everyone at the football club,” Shakespeare said of the Champions League progression.
“It has to stand up there with all the achievements, because of the quality of the opposition.
“It is only over two legs and when you win the league it’s over a lot more games.”
It was a sorry night for Sevilla and their frustrated coach Jorge Sampaoli, who was sent to the stands in the closing stages for complaining to the match officials.
“It became a really tall order after missing the penalty,” Sampaoli said.
“We never stopped trying to look for opportunities to score and to get back into the game.
“The fault lies at the feet of the manager but I’m really proud of the effort my boys put in tonight.”
The Spanish side were looking to qualify for the Champions League last eight for the first time but couldn’t match the intensity of the hosts.
As for Leicester, life just gets better in their first season in Europe’s top club competition.