Basel 1 Chelsea 0: Three talking points
Basel 1 Chelsea 0: Three talking points as Liverpool target Mohamed Salah scores against the Blues - again
Hosts happy at home
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will have prepared for a tough test away to Basel, but they wouldn’t have expected such a dominant showing from the Swiss side. The hosts created a gargantuan 15 shots (eight on target) in the match, but it took until the 87th minute for them to take their opportunity. Chelsea however, managed just a solitary shot off-target, and looked surprisingly below-par. The victory meant Basel kept up their record of having lost just twice at home in all competitions. The electric atmosphere was reciprocated from the stands onto the pitch, as the home side played some delightful counter-attacking football. Mourinho’s side never looked comfortable in possession, despite the introduction of Eden Hazard early into the second half. The Blues’ loss, coupled with Schalke’s goalless draw with Steaua, means that the 2012 winners advance to the knockout stages. Second-placed Basel face Schalke, just a point below them, in the final round of group games and face an anxious wait to see if they also qualify.
Chelsea shouldn’t write off Cech just yet
While the visitors’ attackers left much to be desired, one man who came out of the surprising loss with some sort of credit was Petr Cech. The Blues’ long serving goalkeeper pulled out a string of excellent saves to keep Basel at bay, until the late goal robbed him of a clean sheet. Point blank stops from Fabian Frei and Salah, as well as a late reaction save to block Taulant Xhaka’s free-kick proved Cech’s credentials as he kept his side in the match under sustained pressure. The 31-year-old could do nothing for the winning goal, as a long ball caught out his defence, and such a captivating performance was one of few positives for Chelsea. Cech’s outstanding showing came on the same night his supposed long term successor Thibaut Courtouis, on loan at Atletico Madrid, made a terrible mistake to rob his side of two points against Zenit St Petersburg.
Mohamed the man again
Some players love scoring against certain teams, and Salah is no exception. Having sparked Basel’s comeback in September’s reverse fixture in London, Salah was at it again, running with a tireless energy until the final whistle. His floating confused the Chelsea backline, and was a constant thorn in their side. Salah was switched-on enough to beat Branislav Ivanovic for pace and vision as he outstripped the Serbian and coolly chipped the onrushing Cech to send the home fans into raptures. At just 21, the Egyptian is a rumoured target for Liverpool, where he could continue to play Chelsea’s bane.