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March 8, 2021

Champions League: Basel close the door on CFR

FC Basel 1893 were left with faint hopes of qualification from UEFA Champions League Group E after a narrow but deserved 1-0 victory against CFR 1907 Cluj, who will now finish bottom of the section.
Federico Almerares’ 15th-minute strike proved decisive for the Swiss side, who in spite of a tense opening managed to keep their composure. Still, the three points are unlikely to be enough for Basel to reach the round of 16 after AS Roma’s 3-2 victory against FC Bayern Munich left them needing victory in Germany, and a Roma defeat in Cluj-Napoca in a fortnight’s time, uefa.com comments.

With both sides aware that only a win would guarantee their survival in the competition, the nervousness was evident early on as a focus on avoiding errors held sway.

The Basel fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief with a quarter of an hour gone, however, as Samuel Inkoom picked out Almerares with a fizzing low ball into the area to which the Argentinian frontman applied a sliding finish.

Frei thought he had put the game beyond doubt on 73 minutes only to see his close-range finish ruled out for offside, but in truth Basel had little to worry about in the latter stages, particularly after Piccolo was given a straight red two minutes from time. “It was important to win tonight to secure third place and that’s what we did. We played well and were the better side, but failed to score the second goal. That is the only negative thing I can say about my team, otherwise I am very pleased. Our chances of finishing second are very small, but we want to push ourselves and believe in that small chance. We have achieved our first goal – to keep playing in Europe after the winter break. A coach is always pleased when his team does not concede a goal and I never felt the other side would score. The joy about being sure of European football outweighs my anger at Bayern’s defeat”, said Thorsten Fink, Basel coach after the game, for uefa.com.
“The Swiss side were better than us today and fully deserved their victory. Taking into consideration the five rounds played so far, Basel have been better than us and deserve to qualify for the UEFA Europa League at least, and why not for the [next round of the] UEFA Champions League? Our players are very tired. It’s very hard for them to play at the same level in the championship, domestic cup and the UEFA Champions League. You could see that today”, said on his turn Sorin Cartu (photo), Cluj coach.

Other results on Tuesday night in Champions League groups: Spartak Moskva – Marseille 0 – 3; Ajax – Real Madrid 0 – 4; Auxerre – Milan 0 – 2; Partizan – Shakhtar Donetsk 0 – 3; Chelsea – Zilina 2 – 1; Braga – Arsenal 2 – 0.

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