LONDON. — The sequel is shaping up to be even better than the original. On an incredible, breathless and almost surreal night at the King Power, Leicester produced another Hollywood blockbuster on Tuesday. The cast list is nearly all the same, apart from a new director and the best supporting actor has also left the stage, but the follow-up is even more remarkable.
Leicester gave us the best story ever told by winning the English Premier League last season and now they join the European giants like Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona in the Champions League soccer quarter-finals.
It is barely believable.
We thought they could never top last season, especially after midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante left for Chelsea and manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked last month.
But new boss Craig Shakespeare, living up to his name, has somehow dreamed up an even better fairytale as Leicester’s heroes refuse to go back to the reality of a relegation scrap.
Jamie Vardy’s incredible man-of-the-match performance set the tone for a brilliant and unlikely victory over a team packed with European pedigree.
Three times in a row Sevilla had won the Europa League, beating Liverpool in last season’s final and yet Leicester do not care about history or reputation.
They are just enjoying the most remarkable ride which throws up drama after drama.
Just when you thought there could not be any more twists, they produced another.
Wes Morgan gave Leicester a first half lead, Marc Albrighton doubled it but that does not tell half the story as Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel saved a late penalty to stop Steven N’Zonzi taking the game into extra-time.
Then, just for good measure, former Arsenal and Manchester City bad boy Samir Nasri was sent off for a second yellow card after head butting Vardy.
Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli was also sent to the stands for losing his temper on the touchline.
Leicester, from looking dead and buried amid dressing room revolts just a few weeks ago, have suddenly rediscovered their amazing spirit since Shakespeare took charge last month. It has been like flicking a switch.
Quite what Ranieri makes of it is anyone’s guess.
The band of brothers spirit carried them through to the title last season and we all smiled when Shakespeare suggested on Monday that Leicester could win the Champions League.
“Why not?” asked Shakespeare.
Well, because it’s Leicester, Craig.
And yet we’re still dreaming.
No-one will give them a hope against Barcelona and company in the last eight. But nights like these make you think anything is possible.
It started at a furious pace and never let up. They unfurled a huge banner behind one of the goals which read: “Let Slip The Dogs Of War” with Shakespeare stressing the need for a fast, intense start.
Vardy took up the mantle, chasing down every ball and lost cause. The England striker chased down Vicente Iborra on the edge of the box and won a 27th minute free kick by being a sheer menace.
Riyad Mahrez whipped in a free-kick from the left edge of the box, the ball curled across the penalty box, Morgan outmuscled Gabriel Mercado and the Leicester captain deflected the ball in off his knee. It sent the crowd into a wonderful mix of ecstasy and disbelief.
It got even better after the restart.
Sergio Escudero sounded a warning with an amazing 40-yard shot which hit the underside of the bar. But Leicester weren’t listening.
Mahrez whipped in a cross from the right, Adil Rami’s poor headed clearance fell to Albrighton and the Leicester winger fired a 54th minute low shot into the bottom corner.
Sevilla came back with everything but just when it seemed they were gaining momentum, Nasri was sent off after appearing to headbutt Vardy as the niggling pair clashed on the edge of the box.
That was surely that.
But still more drama followed.
Sevilla forward Vitolo raced into the box, lifted the ball over Schmeichel and the Leicester keeper was booked for upending him and conceded a penalty.
N’Zonzi stepped up to take the penalty, but Schmeichel dived to his left and made a vital save.
It was a poor spot-kick which rather summed up Sevilla, who were swept away by the occasion.
Nothing could spoil Leicester’s night.
This was as good as it gets — the noise and celebrations at the final whistle were fabulous.
An incredible drama as Leicester refuse to write a final chapter of their greatest ever story. — The Mirror.