CFR 1907 Cluj beat FC Basel 1893 2-1 to record a first UEFA Champions League home win which was reward for some accomplished football against more-fancied opponents.
Coach Sorin Cârţu only took the reins at CFR on Monday and this was the perfect start to life at the helm. The Group E victory owed everything to an electrifying opening quarter-hour from the hosts as Argentinian midfielder Juan Culio showcased his quality with two fine left-footed deliveries, the first from a corner and the second from open play. Ionuţ Rada, in the ninth minute, and Lacina Traoré, in the 12th on his UEFA Champions League debut, were the beneficiaries, powering headers past Franco Costanzo in the Basel goal.
The visitors recovered their composure as the opening period wore on in Cluj-Napoca, and Valentin Stocker's near-post header from an Alexander Frei corner on the stroke of half-time lifted Basel spirits and gave Thorsten Fink's men something to play for in the second period.
Prior to Stocker's strike, CFR had threatened to add to their lead as their players frequently found space in behind Benjamin Huggel and Gilles Yapi in the Swiss champions' central midfield, giving them a direct run at centre-halves David Abraham and Çağdaş Atan, who had trouble coping with the pace of the rangy Ivorian Traoré.
Indeed, for all the St. Jakob-Park club's dominance of possession heading towards the break, home goalkeeper Nuno Claro had enjoyed a quiet evening until Frei flicked a free-kick marginally wide and then provided the assist for Stocker's goal. On-form Frei went close himself but was denied by a brave block from Gabriel Mureşan on 57 minutes.
With Basel playing a high defensive line there was always the possibility that the Romanian titleholders would score a third on the counterattack. A saving tackle by Samuel Inkoom denied Culio the chance to cap a sparkling all-round display, while 20-year-old Traoré was a constant menace, running himself into the ground before being replaced late on.
Basel could still have salvaged a point, however, as Xherdan Shaqiri volleyed over and then, on 77 minutes, Nuno Claro tipped over a powerful header from Basel's Scott Chipperfield, who connected with a precise centre from fellow substitute Fwayo Tembo.
On Matchday 2, CFR travel to AS Roma, whom they beat 2-1 away in the group stage two campaigns ago. Basel welcome last season's beaten finalists FC Bayern München.
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