Over the first three days of matches for the Champions League’s Round of 16, teams have combined for 29 goals. To put that in perspective, that averages out to nearly six goals scored per match. Sadly, that high scoring trend died down a little bit on Wednesday. In one match, Juventus swept away Porto with a 2-0 result in Portugal, but the other match featured just a little bit more drama. The reigning champions of England, Leicester City, continued their Cinderella run in the tournament with a trip to take on last year’s Europa League winners Sevilla. Could Claudio Ranieri work some more magic to keep Leicester’s hopes alive, or would it be a day to forget in Seville?
It was nearly a nightmare start for the visitors after just six minutes. A seemingly routine sequence of events saw Christian Fuchs attempted a headed back pass to Kasper Schmeichel. The direction of the Austrian’s pass surprised Schmeichel, and it took a diving save to keep the sides level.
Seven minutes later, Wes Morgan delivered a rash sliding challenge on Joaquin Correa to gift Sevilla the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. Luckily, for the visitors, Schmeichel again played hero with another diving stop to deny Correa’s unconvincing penalty shot. How much longer would the Dane be able to keep Leicester in the match?
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Finally, in the 25th minute, Sevilla got their deserved opening goal. A beautifully whipped cross from Sergio Escudero on the left wing found the head of Pablo Sarabia. The 24-year-old’s headed effort left Schmeichel helpless between the pipes and put the hosts one-goal to the good. Two minutes later, Stevan Jovetic’s deflected shot nearly doubled Sevilla’s lead, but Schmeichel got back in time to tap it harmlessly over the bar.
It’s hard to argue that Leicester really deserved anything more from the second half than what they got. To be honest, I think that it’s fair to say that the Foxes were lucky to only be trailing by one going into the break.
Five minutes into the break, Sevilla had another chance to score. This time, it was former Arsenal/Man City man Samir Nasri who came close, but his tight-angled shot rolled agonizingly across the goal-line after hitting the post, and Leicester lived to die another day. At this point, Sevilla fans must’ve been thinking that the soccer gods just weren’t going to be on their side for this match.
Well, those thoughts were quickly dispelled with Correa finding the back of the net in the 62nd minute. Amazing ball control from Jovetic drew the attention of nearly every Leicester defender in the penalty area, and the striker unselfishly laid the ball off to Correa who smashed it home past Schmeichel to double Sevilla’s lead, and all but secure the result on the day.
Despite the abysmal score line, there was still something left to fight for in Leicester’s eyes. If they could somehow manage to grab an away goal, they would actually have a chance of winning the tie back at the King Power Stadium. Who else, but Jamie Vardy, was going to provide that little bit of hope?
In the 73rd minute, Danny Drinkwater ran through Sevilla’s line after a clever give-and-go with Demarai Gray. The England midfielder worked his way to the end-line before sending a low cross into the path of Vardy. Vardy was never going to miss his shot from six yards, and out of nowhere, Leicester suddenly had a lifeline to get into the quarter-finals.
Even though they ended up losing the match 2-1, I don’t think Leicester would view the result as that big of a negative. They only trail by one goal on aggregate, and thanks to Vardy’s goal, all they would need is a 1-0 win at home to advance in the tournament. Of course, that’s easier said than done.