Sevilla 2:1 Leicester City
A creditable 2:1 defeat against Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Wednesday night proved to be Claudio Ranieri’s final game in charge of Leicester City…
Ranieri made one change to the line-up that lost at Swansea, with Musa in for Gray, as they faced the Europa League holders in a full and noisy stadium.
Sevilla had the early possession, and the first shot on goal, but Sarabia sent his dipping effort just over from distance.
Soon after this City almost had a disaster when Fuchs nodded the ball back to Schmeichel who wasn’t expecting it and required a sharp change of direction to save.
Jovetic then went close with an effort, before the home side were awarded a 13th minute penalty when Morgan lunged in on Correa with a lumbering challenge.
Correa didn’t connect well from 12 yards and Schmeichel changed direction again to save down to his right.
City had a decent spell of attacking after this let off, but couldn’t find a way through and then Sevilla regained their dominance. Correa delivered a low ball to Escudero but Schmeichel produced a fine save to block his shot.
Sevilla took a lead that reflected the run of play in the 25th minute when Escudero crossed from the left and Sarabia, lurking beyond the far post, nodded a fine header past Schmeichel.
Sevilla’s tails were up now and a minute later Schmeichel had to deal with a horrible looping deflection as a Jovetic shot hit Huth on the back.
Schmeichel then made another save from Sarabia, before a scramble in the area was finally cleared.
City were struggling to put any kind of move together at this point and were battling just to keep the scoreline as it was up to the break.
Schmeichel’s defiance in goal continued as he got down well to his right to block a low goalbound Correa shot, and City, while very much second best, had prevented the Sevilla goal fest that many had predicted by half time.
City looked better immediately after the break. Musa and Ndidi both had shots on goal and Mahrez had his first decent run down the right, but a very narrow squeak followed.
Nasri sent Vitolo in down the left, and although his shot beat Schmeichel at his near post from a tight angle, the ball struck the foot of the post and rolled across an empty goalmouth. At the other end, a deflected Drinkwater shot went close.
The tie threatened to go out of City’s reach when Sevilla went further ahead in the 62nd minute. Jovetic controlled a long ball in the area and Huth and Morgan both tried to block him, leaving Correa unmarked to fire the ball home and send the home fans into a frenzy.
City desperately needed an away goal to keep their hopes alive, and that was what they got in the 73rd minute. Gray sent Drinkwater in down the left and his low cross was met by Vardy in middle to give City a priceless away goal.
“We’ve scored a goal!” was the chant from the Leicester corner, before the celebrations sparked a baton charge by police who had been itching to have a go at the slightest excuse. City continued to press forward, Gray went on a couple of good runs down the right, Vardy had an angled drive blocked, and Escudero had to take a yellow card to prevent Mahrez from breaking through.
It was a more even contest now, and while Rami sent a header onto the crossbar, City continued to threaten and Carrico became the next player in the book for a foul on Mahrez.
The final whistle heralded a defeat for City, but it certainly didn’t feel like one, with the tie very much alive going into the second leg at the King Power.
The atmosphere in the away corner was bouyant as the City fans were kept back for twenty minutes, but that would be punctured by the news that filtered through the next day.
Claudio Ranieri, the man who had led City to the Premier League title and a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, would not be in charge of the side for the second leg. Three weeks after a ringing vote of confidence, the owners had sacked him.
Ranieri responded with a heart-breaking quote that showed the class, warmth and dignity of the man.
Sevilla: Sergio Rico, Rami, Lenglet (Carrico 55), Escudero, Mariano, Nzonzi, Sarabia, Nasri, Vitolo, Jovetic, Correa (Iborra 63). Subs Not Used: Soria, Kranevitter, Vietto, Ben Yedder, Vazquez.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Albrighton (Amartey 87), Drinkwater, Ndidi, Mahrez, Musa (Gray 57), Vardy. Subs Not Used: Zieler, Chilwell, King, Okazaki, Benalouane.
Referee: C Turpin. Attendance: 38,834