Thursday 22 February 2018

Bridge of sighs as super Basel brush Mourinho's young 'eggs' to one side

Chelsea 1 Basel 2

Chelsea's Eden Hazard
Chelsea's Eden Hazard

Sam Wallace

Even when the end came at Chelsea precisely six years ago for Jose Mourinho, it was a draw that did for him against Rosenborg – ending months of strife and simmering resentment. In those days a draw was, by the standards of the time, simply unacceptable but last night things got a lot worse.

Chelsea's defeat to Basel was the first time that Chelsea have lost in the group stage at home since a defeat to Besiktas in October 2003, in the days when Mourinho was still Porto manager and Roman Abramovich's millions had just turned European football upside down. The Chelsea owner was pictured on a cycling holiday in Croatia yesterday but he was back last night to watch.

"When we lose, I am the responsible (one)," said Mourinho, who did not see Abramovich in the immediate aftermath of the defeat.

"We lost three points that we must get somewhere. We must get them, (in) Basel, or Schalke, or Bucharest, or all of them or some of them. Normally you have to win the matches at home and get a few points away.

"Now we must win six points at home, Schalke and Steaua, but we have also to win points away. Probably we have to go to win at Basel to compensate for the defeat."

Last season it was the draw with Juventus in his opening home group game that left Roberto Di Matteo playing catch-up and ultimately saw his side eliminated by Christmas. This time Chelsea's Group E does not have quite such a difficult array of opponents but still, Mourinho's side have given themselves an awkward task.

It was politic not to mention the analogies about good eggs after a Chelsea performance that never really caught the imagination. Oscar scored with the last kick of the first half, but the uninspiring Swiss side equalised through Mohamed Salah and then their captain Marco Streller claimed an unlikely win.

It makes the next Champions League match, a trip to Steaua Bucharest on October 1, a game that, at the very least, Chelsea cannot afford to lose.

There was a debut for Willian, whose last game was on August 2 for his previous club Anzhi Makhachkala. There was a second consecutive start for Samuel Eto'o, who was playing for just the second time since August 24. These new signings are somewhat under-cooked and Chelsea looked sluggish.

Once again, Juan Mata found himself on the bench, along with John Terry, and there was not even a place in the squad for Fernando Torres who was a second-half sub on Saturday in the defeat to Everton. There was precious little cutting edge in this Chelsea side who, as custom befits, found the proverbial bus parked in front of the Basel goal and could not find a way round until virtually the last kick of the half.

They lack the pace on the counter-attack, especially when Eden Hazard is obliged to come short in the playmaker's role.

Oscar's sixth goal in seven Champions League games was a rare bright moment but after the equaliser, Streller's winner was glanced in direct from a corner from the left with Gary Cahill unable to get past the big centre-forward. By then, Chelsea had run out of ideas and the manager whose name had been sung all around the ground earlier in the evening left to a smattering of booing. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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