BASEL, Switzerland, (Reuters) – Champions League outsiders Basel completed a remarkable double over Chelsea yesterday, winning 1-0 with a late Mohamed Salah goal although the stunned visitors still qualified for the last 16.
Chelsea, beaten 2-1 at home by the Swiss club in September when Salah was also on target, reached the knocut stage with a game to spare after Schalke 04 drew 0-0 at Steaua Bucharest but there was nothing else for coach Jose Mourinho to smile about.
Thoroughly outplayed, the 2012 champions only stayed in the match for so long thanks to some splendid goalkeeping from Petr Cech while his opposite number Yann Sommer did not have a single shot to warm him up on a freezing night.
The 87th-minute goal, which Mourinho called “ridiculous”, came when Fabian Schaer found Salah with a long pass out of defence and the tricky Egyptian, who pestered Chelsea all night, broke clear down the left before lifting the ball over Cech.
Basel, beaten by eventual title winners Chelsea in last season’s Europa League semi-finals, continued an unlikely run of upsets that had also produced home wins over Manchester United and Bayern Munich in the last two seasons.
“From the first minute I was getting signs my team was tired,” Mourinho told reporters.
“We made mistakes defensively, we made mistakes with the ball, we lost easy passes, we lost every second ball, people were thinking late and we finished with a ridiculous goal, absolutely ridiculous.
“Maybe I should have made more changes from Saturday but when you play so well it’s a big temptation to keep the same team.”
Asked who was at fault for the goal, Mourinho replied “everybody.
“When you are tired you sleep, you think slow, you react late, even in attacking situations in the Basel box we were late,” the Portuguese added.
Chelsea, who have won their other three games in the group, have nine points. Basel, who failed to win any of their other three matches, have eight points and need a draw at third-placed Schalke on Dec. 11 to qualify.
Basel are a blend of experienced Swiss players, young home-grown talent and a handful of foreigners including 21-year-old Salah, who are using the club as a hopeful stepping stone before moving on to bigger and better things.
“I could see from the first minute the team wanted to fight. We created many chances, we played the way we wanted to play, fantastic football,” said coach Murat Yakin.
“To win a match where the other coach is called Mourinho is very special.”
Cech made four outstanding saves in the first half to prevent the Londoners going behind.
He did well to keep the ball out in the third minute when Marco Streller got a touch to Valentin Stocker’s inswinging free kick and he was tested again by a low, deflected Fabian Frei effort in the 13th.
Cech then tipped over a powerful effort from Salah before producing a superb stop to deny the lively Egyptian. The Czech keeper was going the wrong way and his sight was blocked by defenders but he still managed to raise his arm to turn the ball away at the last minute.
Chelsea had another escape when John Obi Mikel cleared off the line from an inswinging corner and they also survived a penalty appeal when the ball struck Frank Lampard’s outstretched arm.
Lampard threatened with a free kick in the second half and Chelsea had a few dangerous counter-attacks but Basel came to life again when Ivorian forward Giovanni Sio made one of his customary late, galvanising appearances as a substitute.
Fabian Schaer went close to giving the home side the lead and the crowd were already sensing victory when Salah raced away down the left before finishing clinically.
“I want to praise Basel,” said Mourinho. “They won because we were sleeping in the last minute but also because they were the best team and deserved to win.”