In a disastrous second half, Chelsea blew a one-goal lead and fell 2-1 at home to Basel in their Champions League Group Stage opener, Wednesday, at Stamford Bridge.
Oscar had given the hosts the advantage shortly before halftime with a well-taken goal following a neat through-ball from Frank Lampard.
But in the 71st minute Mohamed Salah equalized for the Swiss visitors, and 10 minutes later Marco Streller headed home what proved to be the winner.
In his prematch remarks reported by UEFA, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had referred to Basel as a “difficult team,” and as it turned out his words proved prophetic.
Still, it was the hosts who dominated much of the opening period—controlling nearly two-thirds possession and accurately passing the ball around the Basel area, although they struggled mightily to create meaningful goalscoring opportunities.
Oscar, however, found the back of the net in the 45th minute after latching onto Lampard’s pass, and Chelsea went back down the tunnel with a 1-0 lead.
The Brazilian might have put Chelsea 2-0 up when he hit the woodwork shortly after the restart, but slowly Basel managed to creep back into a contest they had, until then, mostly been watching.
Gary Cahill was called upon to make a handful of important interventions in front of Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech, but with 19 minutes remaining Salah beat the Czech Republic international with a delightful, curling effort that found its way inside the far post.
By then the Swiss Super League champions were well on top of things, and in the 81st minute, Streller, having earned a corner, ended up heading the ensuing delivery past Cech at the near post.
Chelsea, in defeat, lost for just the second time at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho while Basel, in victory, could not possibly have imagined a better start to their Group Stage campaign.
Key Player Grades
The playmaker was involved in absolutely everything on Monday—touching the ball 67 times, taking five shots, winning two dribbles and successfully completing four tackles. His strike was the moment of the match until Salah’s beauty midway through the second period, and Chelsea’s loss ended up clouding what was a very effective performance from the Brazil international. (Statistics courtesy WhoScored.com)
Eden Hazard: B-
The Belgian became increasingly frustrated as the match wore on—his dribbles kicked away by opposing defenders who also crowded him out of space he typically works well in. At the final whistle he had managed only two shots—both of which sailed high over the crossbar. When Juan Mata was introduced he seemed to disappear from the match entirely.
Mohamed Salah: A+
He had the run of Ashley Cole during the 88 minutes he spent on the pitch and also lent a hand defensively, winning three tackles. But it was his goal that set him apart on this night. After accepting Streller’s pass he delicately stroked the ball inside the far post with his left foot to level the scoreline, and 10 minutes later his side were ahead to stay.
Chelsea will face Fulham and Tottenham in the Premier League and Swindon in the League Cup before their next Champions League appointment, which will come on October 1 away to Steaua Bucharest. Basel will face Sion twice and Thun once before taking on Schalke at St. Jakob-Park the same evening.
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