x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chelsea’s ‘young eggs’ cracked by Basel in Champions League

Basel come from behind to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller sent off in Napoli defeat.

Basel’s Marco Streller, centre, jumps into teammate Mohamed Salah to celebrate their first goal against Chelsea. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Basel’s Marco Streller, centre, jumps into teammate Mohamed Salah to celebrate their first goal against Chelsea. Adrian Dennis / AFP

London // It is fair to say this result was not in the script. As Chelsea fans welcomed back Jose Mourinho, they could hardly have imagined how scratchy the start of his second spell at the club would be.

A home defeat to Basel does not place their qualification for the knockout phase of the Uefa Champions League in any immediate danger but it does add to a nascent sense of unease.

Mourinho had spoken before the game of his “young eggs”, his way perhaps of asking fans to give his players time to fulfil their potential, as well as asking for patience as he looks to impose his style. All new managers, of course, deserve time, but it seemed an odd request given this is the squad Rafa Benitez took to Europa League glory and third place in the English Premier League at the end of last season, while also boasting new additions such as Samuel Eto’o, Willian, Kevin De Bruyne and Marco van Ginkel.

Given the swagger with which Mourinho usually conducts himself, it is telling that he feels the need to ask at all. The contrast to his “Special One” introduction nine years ago seems telling. It would be absurd to suggest he is under pressure, but no manager under Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has started as badly as Mourinho has this season. And after the disappointment of losing 1-0 at Everton on Saturday, when Chelsea had twice as many chances as their opponents but failed to score, there were more worrying signs last night against Basel about their lack of penetration.

For the majority of the first half, Chelsea applied pressure without looking like scoring. It may be that Eto’o is simply rusty and that his form will come, but he has done little in his two matches so far so suggest that two years in Russia after the age of 30 are not terminal to a top-class striker’s career.

Willian, making his Chelsea debut, huffed and puffed to little effect and looked unfit.

Thank goodness, then, for Oscar, who played with a verve and a spark nobody else on the pitch could match. He scored in the final minute of the first half, making a smart run to his right to receive Frank Lampard’s pass before drilling his finish right-footed back across goal into the bottom corner.

He also struck the bar with a brilliant dipping, curling effort and created a golden opportunity for Eden Hazard with a clever reverse pass that the Belgian thrashed over the bar.

For much of the game Basel had seemed content to contain Chelsea, although Mohamed Salah had occasionally looked dangerous as he attacked the space behind left-back Ashley Cole.

On 71 minutes, the Swiss champions equalised with a goal of real quality. Behrang Safari led the charge from left-back, sending in a cross that the substitute Matias Delgado, the former Al Jazira midfielder, knocked back to Marco Streller. He swept the ball from left to right and Salah finished superbly. And 10 minutes later, Streller darted across the near post to head in a left-wing corner. Mourinho looked incredulous, and he was not the only one.

Round-up

Borussia Dortmund’s goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller and manager Jurgen Klopp were both sent off as their Champions League campaign began with a 2-1 defeat at Napoli.

Last season’s beaten finalists conceded their first goal from a quickly taken corner as Gonzalo Higuain beat his man to head home. Klopp was angry that centre-back Neven Subotic, who was off the pitch getting treatment, had not been given time to get back into defence before Napoli took the corner. His remonstrations saw him sent to the stands by the referee.

Weidenfeller then handled a through ball outside of his box just before the break and also saw red. Lorenzo Insigne’s free kick made it 2-0 on 67 minutes and Napoli could have won by more. But a late Dortmund surge, which saw Camilo Zuniga score an own goal, made it a nervy finish.

In the other Group F game, Arsenal got an important 2-1 away win at Marseille. Theo Walcott volleyed Keiran Gibbs’ cross home after a defensive mistake with 65 minutes gone and Aaron Ramsey hit a fine individual goal with six minutes left. Jordan Ayew’s injury-time penalty was not enough for Marseille.

Celtic held out against an injury hit AC Milan side for 81 minutes at San Siro before two quick goals condemned the Scottish champions to defeat.

Anthony Stokes hit the bar with a free kick for Celtic but shortly after Emilio Izaguirre’s own goal broke the deadlock and Sulley Muntari made it 2-0.

sports@thenational.ae