Super Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi made a long-awaited return from as Leicester missed the chance to finish as group winners after they lost 1-0 to Zorya Luhansk in a Europa League Group G clash at the Slavutych Arena on Thursday.
The Nigerian international has been missing for the Foxes since he picked up an adductor injury in the 4-2 victory over Burnley last September, eventually undergoing surgery for the problem.
The 24-year-old was initially expected to be out for three months, but made an earlier than expected return and was reinstated in Leicester’s starting lineup, lasting 56 minutes before he was replaced by Nampalys Mendy.
Ndidi’s international teammate Kelechi Iheanacho was on for the entirety of the encounter but shot blanks as a late Allayar Sayyadmanesh winner sealed all three points for the Ukrainians.
Brendan Rodgers’ side had already sealed progress to the last 32 prior to the game but the defeat means they stay tied on 10 points with Braga who won 4-2 at AEK Athens in the group’s other game.
Leicester must now beat AEK at the King Power in the final round of games to ensure they finish as group winners.
In Group I, Kayode Olarenwaju was unlisted by Sivasspor whose hopes of making the knockouts were left hanging in the balance after Samuel Chukwueze scored the winner that sealed top spot for Villarreal.
Chukwueze’s first goal in the competition this season came in the 75th minute in his fourth appearance.
The loss didn’t end Sivasspor’s hope of progressing to the next round as second placed Maccabi Tel-Aviv whose eight points are just two better than the Turkish side could only draw at winless Qarabag who earned their first point of the campaign in the stalemate.
Maccabi would have sealed their progress with a win but the draw handed Sivasspor a lifeline and they will qualify for the knockout round with victory at Maccabi in the final round of games.
Elsewhere, centre-back Kevin Akpoguma was on the bench as Hoffenheim and Red Star Belgrade played out goalless draw in Group L.
Both sides had already booked their spots in the last 32 and the draw confirmed Hoffenheim as group winners with one game left.
Chidera Ejuke’s second half introduction failed to spark home side CSKA Moscow as they crashed out of the competition after they were shocked by Wolfsberger at the VEB Arena.
Dario Vinzinger’s first half effort proved sufficient for the visitors as CSKA failed to score for the third time in five games in Group K.
The win boosts Wolfsberger’s hopes of making the knockouts as they now have seven points, two more than Feyenoord who suffered a 2-0 loss at home to leaders and already qualified Dinamo Zagreb.
Wolfsberger hosts Feyenoord in the final round of games in what is a straight shootout for second place in the group.