FC Basel 1893 have one foot in the UEFA Champions League group stage after a 4-2 win at PFC Ludogorets Razgrad in the first leg of their play-off tie.
Though Basel went in from through Mohamed Salah, they were 2-1 down five minutes into the second half following goals from Marcelinho and Ivan Stoyanov. Murat Yakin's side's class ultimately told, though, as Salah added a second before further efforts from Giovanni Sio and Fabian Schär, the latter from the penalty spot after Júnior Caiçara was sent off for Ludogorets.
Basel, UEFA Europa League semi-finalists last season, started and finished like the team with a far superior European pedigree. Indeed Salah took his first goal in suitably composed fashion, racing on to Fabian Frei's through ball before drilling across Vladislav Stoyanov.
The hosts, however, were not overawed despite such an early sucker-punch. Roman Bezjak showed superb hold-up play befitting the No9 on his back and laid in Marcelinho, who dinked the ball delightfully over Yann Sommer.
Though Basel went close through Marcelo Díaz's rasping drive towards the end of the first half, Ludogorets began to look the more threatening outfit. It was therefore little surprise that the Bulgarian title holders went in front soon after the interval thanks to Ivan Stoyanov's first-time finish from Caiçara's cross.
However, Vladislav Stoyanov was soon picking the ball out of his net thanks to another fine run from Salah, another pinpoint through ball – this time from Marcelo – and an equally deft finish from the Egyptian international.
Basel then took a potentially tie-turning lead thanks to debutant Sio, only signed on Saturday, who finished with aplomb after Valentin Stocker's neat flick. Chances followed at both ends – Marcelinho spurned a gilt-edged header and Alexandre Barthe shot into the side netting, while Salah was denied a hat-trick goal – but instead Schär had the final word when he slotted in from the spot after Caiçara had been dismissed for felling Salah.
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