Fri, Oct 03, 2014 - Page 19 News List

UEFA: Basel shock sloppy Liverpool 1-0

Reuters, BASEL, Switzerland, and SOFIA

Basel’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed El Nenny, left, and Liverpool’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli vie for the ball in their UEFA Champions League Group B match at the St Jakob-Park stadium in Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Swiss champions Basel claimed another Premier League scalp when they took advantage of a lazy Liverpool to win their UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday 1-0 courtesy of a Marco Streller goal.

The raw talent of Basel youngsters Ahmed Hamoudi, Derlis Gonzalez and Breel Embolo, combined with the experience of the wily Streller and a fervent 36,000-strong crowd, was too much for the Reds, who were toothless in attack and shoddy at the back.

Streller’s 52nd-minute goal came after Liverpool completely failed to deal with a corner and, although goalkeeper Simon Mignolet managed to save the ball, Streller was on hand to turn in the rebound.

Basel, who recovered from a 5-1 mauling by Real Madrid in their opener, have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United in the Champions League in the past four seasons, and knocked Tottenham Hotspur out of the Europa League. They also qualified from the Champions League group stage at Liverpool’s expense in 2002-2003 season.

Liverpool, who began Group B with a home win over Ludogorets Razgrad, gave Basel ’keeper Tomas Vaclik very little to do and Raheem Sterling fluffed their best chance in the 75th minute when Adam Lallana sent him clear, but he miscontrolled the ball and was dispossessed.

Basel even had to overcome an early injury blow when leftback Behrang Safari went off injured after only 10 minutes. Yet Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa confidently reshuffled his side, switching from a back four to a back three, and bringing on Gonzalez to play wide on the right of midfield, where he caused Liverpool all sorts of problems.

Steven Gerrard summed up Liverpool’s evening when he wasted two early set pieces with poor delivery, while the skulking Mario Balotelli was ineffective in attack.

“The goal was far too soft and it’s not the first one,” Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers told reporters. “It’s a very disappointing goal to concede after all the training ground work we do.”

Basel were the better side in the first half, although Simon Mignolet had to make only one save, when he blocked Geoffroy Serey Die’s effort after the Ivorian midfielder waltzed his way into the Liverpool area.

With Hamoudi and Embolo both lively, Basel frequently got into dangerous positions, but the final pass often let them down.

Mignolet was called into action again early in the second half when he blocked Hamoudi’s drive after the energetic Egyptian got away down the left following the breakdown of a Reds attack, but there was nothing he could do as they failed to deal with the resulting corner.

The result left Liverpool and Basel level on three points after two games, behind Real, who top the group with six. Basel’s next two games are against rank outsiders Ludogorets, while Liverpool face back-to-back clashes against los Blancos.

“It will probably go right to the end for us,” Rodgers admitted.

In Sofia, Karim Benzema came off the bench to score 13 minutes from time and ruin any chance of a dream result for a resilient Ludogorets on Wednesday, as holders Real carved out a patchy 2-1 win.

Lively Brazilian midfielder Marcelinho had fired Ludogorets, the Bulgarian club making their home debut in the group stages, into an early lead, prompting the hope at the Vasil Levski Stadium that a soccer fairytale could be in the air.

After eight minutes, Marcelinho had headed home from close range after Sergio Ramos failed to clear Fabio Espinho’s corner and the home side’s belief grew even stronger when two minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo had a penalty saved by Vladislav Stoyanov.

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