Vardy strike offers hope to Leicester despite defeat by Sevilla

Pablo Sarabia headed the host into a deserved lead in the 25th minute after Kasper Schmeichel had saved Joaquin Correa's penalty. Argentine forward Correa made amends by netting in the 62nd after inspired play from Stevan Jovetic.

Sevilla's Pablo Sarabia scores its first goal against Leicester City.   -  REUTERS

There was no awakening from Leicester City's nightmare season as it went down 2-1 at Sevilla in its Champions League last-16 first-leg meeting, but Jamie Vardy's away goal stirred old senses again for the Foxes.

MATCH CENTRE

This continental trip offered Leicester a distraction from domestic dismay that lurched from slipping into a Premier League relegation fight to FA Cup elimination at the hands of Millwall on Saturday.

Given its woeful form, a trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan was the last thing Claudio Ranieri needed and Sevilla — without the suspended Jorge Sampaoli on the touchline — routinely found gaps in a porous and passive defence.

Kasper Schmeichel was the only visiting player to provide resistance, saving Joaquin Correa's early penalty and numerous other efforts, but Pablo Sarabia's firm header had Sevilla ahead at half-time and Correa atoned for his miss with a goal after the break.

Schmeichel's saves largely looked to be in vain, but a Sevilla lapse opened up space for Danny Drinkwater to tee up Vardy's first Champions League goal and send a Leicester following that has become increasingly browbeaten to dream again.

The Foxes won all three of their group games at the King Power Stadium, twice by a 1-0 scoreline that would take them through in three weeks' time.

Ranieri had spoken of this fixture having a transformative effect on Leicester's campaign, but it was more of the same from the off, Christian Fuchs almost nodding past Schmeichel, who reacted sharply for the first of many times to save the Austrian.

The air of calamity would not clear, though, as Correa weaved past a static Robert Huth before he was felled by a clumsy, lunging Wes Morgan in the penalty area. Though Schmeichel saved his captain's blushes by holding Correa's weak effort, the Sevilla tide was unrelenting.

Sergio Escudero was a persistent menace on Sevilla's left, and he forced Schmeichel into a smart stop before setting up a magnificent opener.

The full-back beat Ahmed Musa to the ball before coming back into possession and whipping an inch-perfect cross over Fuchs for Sarabia to race onto and plant a firm header beyond the helpless Schmeichel.

The increasingly desperate Dane had to fist a looping, deflected Stevan Jovetic shot over and tip away a fizzing Correa shot as Leicester's lifeless approach of sitting deep in their own half did nothing to stem Sevilla's roaming through the pitch.

Wilfred Ndidi blasted the visitors' first shot on target straight at Sergio Rico, but it did not immediately signal the coming fightback as Vitolo hit the post from an impossible angle before the dithering Morgan and Huth converged on Jovetic, allowing Correa the time and space to finish after the Montenegrin offloaded the ball.

Sevilla was in control, but they were guilty of allowing Leicester a scent of progression when Drinkwater wandered into open space before picking out Vardy for his first strike since a hat-trick against Manchester City in December.

Victory remained Sevilla's, while Real Madrid's defeat at Valencia also vitalised a potential title tilt in La Liga, and Sampaoli's return to the touchline for the second leg could prove crucial in the Spanish side making the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time.

 Key Opta stats: 

- Kasper Schmeichel conceded his first Champions League goal after 385 minutes of action in the competition. 

- Leicester has kept just two clean sheets in its last 22 games in all competitions (and none in its last 10). 

- Leicester failed to direct a single shot on target in the first-half, registering just one shot on target in total in its last four first-halves in all competitions. 

- Pablo Sarabia has scored in consecutive games for Sevilla for the first time, after netting against Eibar at the weekend. 

- Stevan Jovetic has been involved in seven goals in his eight games for Sevilla in all comps (three goals, four assists).  

- Jamie Vardy scored for the first time in 758 minutes of action for Leicester in all competitions. 

- It was also Vardy's first shot on target in 380 minutes of action.