BASEL (Reuters) - Swiss champions FC Basel claimed another English Premier League scalp when they took advantage of a sloppy and lethargic Liverpool to win 1-0 with a Marco Streller goal in the Champions League on Wednesday.
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 crowd, was too much for Liverpool, 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 bounced back from a 5-1 mauling by Real Madrid in their opening game, have previously beaten Chelsea and Manchester United in the Champions League in the last four seasons and knocked Tottenham Hotspur out of the Europa League.
They also qualified from the Champions League group stage at Liverpool’s expense back in 2002/03.
Liverpool, who began Group B with a home win over Ludogorets Razgrad, gave Basel goalkeeper 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 left back Behrang Safari went off injured after only 10 minutes.
But their Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa confidently re-shuffled 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 and the skulking Mario Balotelli was ineffective in attack, apart from a thundering 30-metre free kick which bounced off Vaclik’s chest and fell to Lazar Markovic, whose shot was deflected away..
”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.
“We never got going in the first 25 minutes and didn’t make the passing combinations. We started the second half well, went close on a couple of occasions and conceded a soft goal.”
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 toe-poked effort after the Ivorian midfielder waltzed his way into the Liverpool area.
With Hamoudi and Embolo both lively, Basel often 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 angled drive after the energetic Egyptian got away down the left following the breakdown of a Liverpool attack.
But there was nothing he could do as Liverpool failed to deal with the resulting corner.
The result left Liverpool and Basel both level on three points after two games, behind Real Madrid who top the group with six. Basel’s next two games are against rank outsiders Ludogorets Razgrad while Liverpool face back-to-back clashes against Real Madrid.
“It will probably go right to the end for us,” admitted Rodgers.
Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Toby Davis