Jamie Vardy scored a last-gasp goal amid a dramatic finale as Leicester City clinched their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League in an enthralling 3-3 draw at Braga.
With AEK Athens losing to Zorya Luhansk in Group G's other game on Thursday, the Foxes needed a point to book their place in the last 16, and thought they had it when Luke Thomas scored his first senior goal in the 78th minute to make it 2-2.
Yet Braga, who led at half-time thanks to goals from Al Musrati and Paulinho either side of Harvey Barnes' equaliser, seemed to have snatched the win when substitute Fransergio slotted in on the counter.
It was not to be, with Leicester's talisman Vardy on hand to tuck home Marc Albrighton's cross in the final minute of stoppage time and claim a precious, progression-sealing draw.
Coming in clutch pic.twitter.com/B1EOuu179T— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 26, 2020
Braga were ahead inside four minutes when, after Iuri Medeiros saw two efforts blocked, Musrati arrowed a thumping strike into the left-hand corner.
Leicester drew level with their first meaningful attack when Barnes lashrf in from a tight angle, but Braga's lead was restored when Ricardo Horta skipped past Schmeichel before squaring for Paulinho to finish.
Cengiz Under squandered a swift chance to equalise and Leicester would have been made to pay if not for a fantastic double stop from Schmeichel to deny Paulinho and Horta.
Vardy's introduction after the hour sparked life into Leicester and – after Jonny Evans had sliced wide – the pressure told, with substitute James Maddison drilling in a cross from which Thomas nudged home.
With Zorya cruising in Athens, Leicester appeared to be through but, at the culmination of a counter-attack, Fransergio powered a finish over Schmeichel to seemingly put the Foxes' progression on hold.
Vardy, however, had other ideas and, after leading a charge down the left flank, kept his position to latch onto Albrighton's delivery and side-foot into a gaping goal.
What does it mean? Foxes into last 32
Leicester had been hunting a club-record fourth straight European win, though in the circumstances this result will no doubt feel like a victory.
While their place in the knockouts is secure, Brendan Rodgers' side still have first place in the group to play for, though they can at least afford themselves some wiggle room in the final two fixtures.
Unplayable Vardy keeps on rolling
No player has scored more goals for Leicester City in major European competition than Vardy, who is now level on four with Riyad Mahrez.
The 33-year-old has scored 10 goals from 10 appearances in all competitions already this season.
Praet passed by
Rodgers elected to play Dennis Praet in a deeper midfield role than the Belgian – who was taken off at half-time – is accustomed to, but the former Sampdoria playmaker failed to impress, managing just 23 touches and attempting only 22 passes, with only four of those coming in Braga's half.
Key Opta Facts
- Braga have lost just one of their last 11 home games in European competition (including qualifiers – W6 D4), scoring 24 goals in total.
- Leicester have conceded three goals in consecutive matches for the first time since December 2019, when they did so against Manchester City on Liverpool.
- Thomas, aged 19 years and 169 days, became Leicester's youngest goalscorer in a European competition.
- Portugal forward Paulinho has had a hand in eight goals in 12 Europa League appearances for Braga since the start of last season (seven goals, one assist).
Leicester host struggling Fulham on Monday, while Braga face Farense in their next league outing.