A night to remember: On Wednesday (07.12.11) FC Basel in their final group stage Champions League match beat mighty Manchester United 2:1 (1:0) at St. Jakob’s Park. In so doing Basel are the first Swiss team ever, to reach the last sixteen knock out stage of Europe’s toughest competition (draw held on Friday the 16th of December 2011)! In an outstanding, overall team performance, Marco Streller (9.) and Alex Frei scored against the Red Devils, who hold England’s record for most league titles. What an unforgettable night; the Champions League fairytale continues…
The City of Basel is beside itself. Yet another unbelievable performance on Wednesday night, left 36’000 supporters in a state of pure amazement at a sold out St. Jakob’s Park. ln defeating one of the World’s most successful and biggest clubs, 2:1, FC Basel have qualified for the last 16. As the ref blew the final whistle after 93 emotionally intense, hard fought and ultimately blissful minutes, FC Basel’s entire team, including coaches, players and staff stormed onto the pitch at the “Joggeli” (St. Jakob’s Park) to celebrate one of Basel’s greatest moments in their club history.
„I am incredibly proud of the team“, stated a deeply satisfied FCB coach Heiko Vogel. “On a tactical, mental and physical level, this was a great achievement. On the whole I believe that this was a deserved win, as the team worked very hard.” This victory against England’s record holders can be described as a sensation”, states Vogel. “It’s not often that anyone beats Manchester United, especially in the manner that we did.” Vogel’s opposite number, Sir Alex Ferguson, was obviously disappointed: “Losing the early goal was a big blow. When you're away from home and 1-0 down you have a job to do and we didn't take our chances. It's big blow for us. “, Ferguson explained.
Streller again with another superb volley.
A battling performance was required from the Swiss champions. In the 9th minute, Marco Streller converted Basel’s first chance of the match in superb style – to make it 1:0 for Basel. Streller’s goal turned up the already electric atmosphere at St. Jakob’s Park. FC Basel’s captain volleyed in from 10 meters – Xerdan Shaqiri’s strong cross from the left wing had caused problems for David de Gea who was only able to parry the ball into Streller’s path. What a start!
Manchester United had put pressure on the Swiss side from the start –however after conceding an early goal the pressure was turned up another notch. FC Basel attempted to hold the ball in order to control the game. Based on the magnitude of the opponent, Basel did a great job prevent any damage. As the pressure mounted through Manchester’s offensive play, Basel struggled to attack and to challenge the visitors at the other end of the pitch. The English guests pushed hard for the equalizer during the last fifteen minutes of the first half. There were chances for Sung Park (30.) Rooney after a marvelous pass from oldie, Ryan Giggs (35.), Nani (36.) and Ashley Young (40.) Every time Basel’s solid defense or goalkeeper Yann Sommer, were able to get in the way to prevent Manchester from scoring
A close call for Markus Steinhöfer
In the second half Basel managed to create several chances. A precise shot by Xerdan Shaqiri from just outside of the box, went just wide in the 52nd minute. Alex Frei showed the crowd his value from set pieces as his free kicks to the top corner was clawed over the crossbar by David De Gea. Guardian angels must have been present at St. Jakob’s Park on the night as Basel defender Markus Steinhöfer attempted to clear a Nani cross from the box in the 60th minute – the German accidentally pounded the ball against the crossbar. At this stage of the game Manchester United threw everyone forward, causing the very vocal Basel supporters to gasp in relief several times during the games climax.
Instead of conceding an equalizer, destroying Basel’s dreams of reaching the last 16 of the competition, the football crazy city of Basel experienced salvation. In the 84th minute, yet again, Xerdan Shaqiri crossed the ball from the left into the box, towards the far post where Basel’s top scorer, Alex Frei stooped low to head the ball over the line to make it 2:0. Everyone in the stadium was now off their seats. This was Frei’s 5th goal in this year’s competition, only Mario Gomez (Bayern München) and Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) have scored more (6) than Frei in the group stage of the year’s competition.
In the 89th minute, United’s Phil Jones scored the only Manchester United goal of the night. Several minutes later the ref ended the game and the party got into full swing.
(Translated by Thomas Snaith)
FC Basel–Manchester United 2:1 (1:0)
St. Jakob-Park. – Attendence: 36‘000 Zuschauer (sold out). – Ref Björn Kuipers (Netherlands).
Goals: 9. Streller 1:0 (Shaqiri). 84. Alex Frei 2:0 (Shaqiri). 89. Jones 2:1.
FC Basel: Sommer; Steinhöfer, Abraham, Dragovic, Park; Shaqiri (91. Stocker), Granit Xhaka (83. Chipperfield), Cabral, Fabian Frei; Streller, Alex Frei (88. Kusunga).
Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic (43. Evans), Ferdinand, Evra; Park (82. Macheda), Giggs, Jones, Young (64. Welbeck); Nani; Rooney.
Notes: FCB without Huggel, Voser, Yapi, T. Xhaka (injured), Andrist, Degen (not qualified). Manchester United without Carrick (suspended), Anderson, Berbatov, Cleverley, Hernandez, Owen (injured). – Bookings: 28. G. Xhaka (Foul). 47. (1. HZ) Young (Foul).
Final standings Group C:
FC Basel 1893
(Pictures: Sacha Grossenbacher)