Despite the chill of a freezing Moscow night, FC Basel's players departed the Dinamo stadium pitch glowing with satisfaction after a 2-0 win over FC Spartak Moskva gave them real hope of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League second group stage.
Basel go second
Goals from Julio Hernán Rossi, his fourth goal in this season's competition, and substitute Christian Giménez gave the Swiss champions the victory that lifts them one point clear of Liverpool FC and into second place in Group B. The visit of Gérard Houllier's side to Basel next Tuesday will decide which of the two joins Valencia CF in the next stage - and which enters the UEFA Cup.
Basel need only draw the match to become the first Swiss team to reach the Champions League's second group stage. As for Spartak, defeat here extends to 16 matches their winless run in the Champions League and means they will finish bottom of the group.
Bundled past Levitsky
Rossi's opener came on 18 minutes. There was nothing too pretty about Marco Zwyssig's high punt into the Spartak area but Hervé Tum muscled his way between Dmitri Khlestov and Valeri Abramidze and sent over a low cross from the by-line. Rossi got in front of his marker, Moisés, and bundled the ball past Maxym Levitsky at his near post.
Visitors sit back
The Argentinian's strike was the only first-half effort of note from the visitors. Hakan Yakin's shot straight at the goalkeeper five minutes before the break offered Levitsky a rare opportunity to warm his fingers as Basel opted to sit back and soak up Spartak pressure.
Russian international striker Vladimir Beschastnykh - captain again in place of the injured Yegor Titov - worked overtime in midfield as Spartak, third in the Russian Premier-Liga, pushed for their first points in the competition.
They had their moments. After five minutes Aleksandr Pavlenko broke into the penalty box from the right but shot over the crossbar. Then Pascal Zuberbühler spilled a Yuri Kovtun cross into the path of Pavlenko but the Spartak midfield player pulled his shot wide of the far post. After falling behind, Senegalese international Baye Kebe then shot over from the edge of the area after Aleksandr Danishevski had laid the ball into his path.
Should have done better
Entering the second half and Maxym Kalynychenko had a shot beaten out by Zuberbühler before, on 67 minutes, Aleksandr Danishevski should have done better after good work down the right by Pavlenko. Instead Pavlenko's pass got caught between his feet and he could only direct a tame shot past the far post.
So it fell to Giménez, a second-half replacement for his compatriot Rossi, to settle the match. Collecting the ball 35 metres from goal, he lifted it over Dmitri Khlestov and then punished Levitsky's decision to race out of his goal with a high lob which dropped neatly into the net. Liverpool's visit to St Jakob Park next week should be some occasion.
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