3 things we learned from Basel’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool
Basel held on for an all-important point after a breathless finish at Anfield.
Basel hung on to draw 1-1 against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, as the Swiss champions edged into the Champions League knockout phase ahead of their Merseyside hosts.
Basel took the lead midway through the first half, only to be pegged back by a 10-man Liverpool with just minutes left on the clock. Despite the Reds’ best efforts, they couldn’t find an all-important winner, and will play the rest of their continental football this season in the Europa League.
It took just 13 minutes of the match for Basel to slice through the leaky Liverpool defence for the first time, though Shkelzen Gashi blazed the ball over the crossbar after being slipped in by a fine Luca Zuffi pass. It was an early warning for Liverpool, who found themselves seeing plenty of the ball, but not really doing much with it. Basel, meanwhile, zipped the ball around the final third with precision and speed, and looked threatening.
Unfortunately for the home fans, it was a warning their side failed to heed. Five minutes after Raheem Sterling spurned the hosts’ only real chance of the first period with a sloppy giveaway in the penalty area, Fabian Frei rifled Zuffi’s lay-off into the bottom corner of Simon Mignolet’s net. It was a fine finish, and a reward for Basel’s excellent start.
By halftime, Liverpool were lucky to only be a goal down. Just past the half-hour, Basel striker Marco Streller volleyed a Taulant Xhaka cross wide from point-blank range, when he really should’ve hit the back of the net. Shortly before the whistle, Gashi rolled the ball underneath Mignolet to score the visitors’ second, only for the assistant to correctly flag for offside.
Liverpool made a couple of attacking changes to start the second half, with pacey attacker Lazar Marković and excitable full-back Alberto Moreno thrown into the mix. Initially things looked promising for the hosts, who looked almost immediately more threatening. However, their hopes of getting back into the game took a big blow just past the hour, when Marković was sent off for making contact with the face of Basel defender Behrang Safari.
The clock ticked on and Basel looked increasingly comfortable, until a single moment of brilliance from Gerrard inside the final 10 minutes. He stepped up to curl a perfect free-kick off the post and into the back of the Basel goal, setting up a very nervy finish. Liverpool dominated the final few minutes, and forced their visitors’ goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík into a couple of important interventions, though Basel managed to hang on for a crucial point … just.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Enrique (Moreno 46′), Lovren, Škrtel, Johnson; Allen, Lucas (Coutinho 74′); Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling; Lambert (Marković 46′).
Goals: Gerrard (81′).
Red cards: Marković (61′).
Basel: Vaclík; Safari, Suchý, Schär, Xhaka; Zuffi (Samuel 88′), Frei, Elneny (Díaz 84′); Gashi, Streller (Embolo 74′), González.
Goals: Frei (25′).
1. Brendan Rodgers keeps making the same mistakes
Liverpool set up against Ludogorets in their last Champions League match just as they did in this one. They didn’t play well then and — guess what! — they didn’t play well for 80 minutes here either. Whether it’s through arrogance or stupidity, Brendan Rodgers made the same mistakes again. With a slow, one-dimensional striker, an energetic (but slightly technically-limited) slow central midfielder playing out wide, a slow, elderly Steven Gerrard through the middle and two uncreative midfielders anchoring things, it was nigh-on impossible to imagine them creating much. It meant Basel could specifically focus on keeping Raheem Sterling out of the game — something they did pretty well throughout. Until Liverpool add more pace and creativity to their starting lineup, they’re going to struggle.
2. However, Basel were great
As poor as Liverpool were, nothing should be taken away from Basel. It wasn’t just your average minnows vs. giants performance from the Swiss side, but a technical and tactical masterclass, more than vindicating the management of divisive coach Paulo Sousa. Without the ball, their positioning was perfect; with the ball, they looked even better. Their passing was crisp and incisive, and their goal was brilliantly taken. While they’re not going to cause problems for any serious Champions League contender, they’re a very strong team.
3. Luca Zuffi was the pick of the bunch
You have to look no further than Basel playmaker Luca Zuffi for a man of the match. The young Swiss midfielder has never been capped by his national team, and only joined Basel from Thun earlier this year. However, if he continues to deliver performances like this, it won’t be long before Vladimir Petković comes calling. He was crucial to Basel’s accurate, incisive attacking play, with his passing perfectly weighted and always catching Liverpool’s defenders off-guard.