Chelsea 1 Basel 2: Four lessons as visitors stun Mourinho’s men
Chelsea 1 Basel 2: What lessons did we learn as the Swiss side came from behind to shock the Blues at Stamford Bridge?
Oscar provides threat as Eto’o struggles
It’s a debate that looks set to continue: was Jose Mourinho right to send Romelu Lukaku out to Everton on a season-long loan? Few would question the Special One’s judgement but the giant Belgian striker was a player with a point to prove after 17 top-flight goals at West Bromwich Albion last season. With Demba Ba and Fernando Torres still struggling to impress, Lukaku would have slotted into Mourinho’s Second Coming nicely, filling Didier Drogba’s void. Of course, it’s a vastly different Blues squad to 2004, and instead, Mourinho signed Samuel Eto’o on a free transfer. The ex-Cameroon international made a lethargic start in a 1-0 loss to Everton and rarely looked like troubling the Swiss defence on Wednesday night. Understandably, Eto’o is not yet on the same wavelength with his new team-mates – made apparent by the number of times the Blues squandered possession in Basel’s final third. It was Oscar who came to the rescue of his manager as he produced one of his typical Champions League performances. The Brazilian, who memorably shone in a 2-2 draw with Juventus last season, was alert to Frank Lampard’s cutting pass to put the Blues ahead on the stroke of half-time. The 21-year-old also created Chelsea’s best chance of the second half when he slotted Eden Hazard through on goal but the Belgian blasted his attempted over the crossbar.
No Mata as Hazard fails to find 2012-13 form
Following his first Premier League start of the season, Juan Mata was back in his familiar position on the bench as Mourinho opted to start Hazard, Oscar and debutant Willian in his attacking midfield slots. Whilst the latter pair produced solid – if unspectacular – performances, Hazard disappointed as the Belgian continues to fail to sparkle. The former Lille man made a promising start to his Blues career last term, netting 14 goals in 67 appearances in all competitions. But Hazard was again muted against the Swiss side. The 22-year-old was guilty of wasting possession in promising positions, which is unlike the normally meticulous Belgian. When he delved into his box of tricks, the Blues winger surprisingly came up short – and he was not helped by referee Daniele Orsato. He wasted an excellent chance to double Chelsea’s lead in the 61st minute as he blasted his attempt over the crossbar with only Yann Sommer to beat. Hazard may be a favourite of new manager Mourinho, but if his struggles continue, the Chelsea manager can’t afford to ignore two-time Blues player of the year Mata.
Salah stars at Stamford Bridge
While Chelsea dominated the possession stakes and pressed for a first-half goal, Basel were content to sit deep and counter-attack when the home side’s frequent attacks broke down. Central to Murat Yakin’s master plan was Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian is Basel’s in-form man, having netted three goals in the preliminary Champions League rounds. The 21-year-old, tipped as north Africa’s next big star, gave Ashley Cole a thorough test as he went through his full repertoire of tricks in west London. The England international is rarely beaten for pace or outwitted, but Salah had the veteran scrambling on a number of occasions. The midfielder, who netted in the Europa League semi-final at Stamford Bridge in May, created the visitors’ best chance of the first half as his jet-heeled run left Cole trailing, before Gary Cahill came to his team-mate’s rescue. Despite Chelsea tempering the winger’s threat after the interval, the Egypt international conjured an unlikely equaliser for the visitors. Lampard’s ambitious pass was cut off by the Basel rearguard, and with the Blues out of position, the Swiss champions countered to lethal effect as Salah fired a low shot past Cech.
Mourinho may have to wait for third title
Mourinho spoke at length about his desire to win a third Champions League title – and first with Chelsea – at his pre-match news conference on Tuesday. The 50-year-old led the Blues to a semi-final appearance in his first season in charge, losing out to an infamous Luis Garica strike at Anfield. While that Chelsea outfit played efficient football, the current Blues side are far from a well-oiled machine. Without a goal-scorer and with a vulnerable centre-half pairing, it was almost unsurprising as Basel captain Marco Streller edged the visitors ahead with a 81st-minute header from a corner. Mourinho went out with a whimper in 2007 as his side were held to a 1-1 draw by Rosenborg in his final match – and he’s started his new reign in similar fashion. Meanwhile in Naples, former Blues boss Rafael Benítez will have afforded himself a wry smile as his Napoli side were 2-1 winners against last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund.