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Leicester’s fairy tale lives on in Europe

The Associated Press

Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki, left, vies for the ball with Sevilla’s Vitolo during their Champions League match at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, on Tuesday.

The Associated PressLEICESTER, England (AP) — First, the Premier League title. Now, the Champions League quarterfinals.

Is there no end to Leicester’s soccer fairy tale?

The improbable rise of a previously unheralded club from central England touched new heights on Tuesday when Leicester beat Sevilla 2-0 to reach the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition, courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Two years ago to the day, Leicester was in last place in the Premier League after a dour 0-0 home draw with Hull. On Friday, its name will be in a pot alongside the cream of the continent — Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and two others — in the Champions League draw in Nyon.

“We proved a lot of people wrong and pulled off the impossible again,” said Leicester captain Wes Morgan, one of the scorers inside an atmospheric King Power Stadium.

“We will take whoever comes.”

That’s the kind of uncompromising attitude that carried Leicester to the Premier League title last season at odds of 5,000-1 and is sweeping the team to another potential miracle.

No team is likely to feel comfortable in the cauldron that is the King Power Stadium on nights like these.

Craig Shakespeare recently took over from Claudio Ranieri, the coach who orchestrated Leicester’s sensational Premier League title triumph but was fired because the team had found itself fighting a relegation battle in its championship defense.

Shakespeare has three wins from three matches in charge, and has got the team playing back at last season’s levels.

“We tried to make it as uncomfortable as we could for Sevilla,” said Shakespeare, who was pictured on that banner holding a dog on a leash.

Sevilla — currently the third-best team in Spain and winner of the last three Europa League titles — played into Leicester’s hands here, leaving space behind its defense and failing to match the home side’s intensity and energy.

Its players also gave away silly fouls, one at the edge of their area that allowed Riyad Mahrez to curl in a free kick that Morgan turned home at the back post for 1-0 in the 27th.

Winger Marc Albrighton doubled the lead in the 54th — and put Leicester clear on aggregate — by lashing home left-footed from just inside the area after Sevilla defender Adil Rami made a poor headed clearance.

Sevilla’s anger boiled over. So frustrated was French playmaker Samir Nasri that he was sent off for collecting two bookings — one for kicking out at Wilfried Ndidi in the first half and the second for aiming a headbutt at Jamie Vardy in the 74th.

Still, outplayed and out-thought, Sevilla could have taken the game to extra time when Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel brought down Vitolo in the area. Steven N’Zonzi took the penalty in the 79th but Schmeichel guessed the right way, just like he did in the first leg when he denied Joaquin Correa from the spot.

Juve progresses past Porto

TURIN, Italy (AP) — Paulo Dybala’s penalty set Juventus on its way to a 1-0 win over 10-man Porto on Tuesday and a place in the Champions League quarterfinals.

A day after he said it was his “dream” to score past veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Dybala converted from the spot in the 42nd minute after Maxi Pereira was sent off for handling the ball on the goal line.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side progressed from the Round of 16 with a 3-0 victory on aggregate and maintained its impressive record at the Juventus Stadium.

Once again, Porto was undone by a red card. Alex Telles was sent off in the first leg, when it still took Juventus until the 72nd minute to break the deadlock.

“Without doubt, the sending off in both matches affected us,” Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo said. “We didn’t concede any goals when we had the same number of players, there remains the doubt whether we would have if we had remained in 11 in both matches.”

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