A pair of Argentinian aces inspired FC Basel to a 2-0 victory against FC Spartak Moskva tonight and with it the upper hand in the battle to join Group B winners Valencia CF in the UEFA Champions League second group stage.
Julio Hernán Rossi and Christan Giménez were the goalscorers on a frozen night of football in Moscow that failed to warm the small band of dedicated home supporters that had huddled together in the Dinamo stadium. Basel coach Christian Gross knew the clinical finishing of his strikers was all that really separated two hard-working sides tonight. Rossi paved the way with a poacher's goal on 20 minutes before his second-half replacement, Giménez, finished off Spartak with a brilliantly executed chip just before the final whistle.
'Strong as bears'
"We managed to fulfil all our plans in this game," Gross said. "It was a superb match for our Argentinan players Rossi and Giménez. Overall, though the team has shown a good level of play and we were strong as bears."
One point needed
While Spartak's European elimination is confirmed, the Swiss champions are thinking only about Liverpool FC's visit to the Saint Jakob Park next Tuesday when a draw will see them qualify at the English club's expense. Such a feat would be unprecedented in Swiss football history but with eight points to Liverpool's seven and one match to go, Basel have a real chance. If they can repeat the form that earned them a 2-2 home draw with Valencia on Matchday Four, then there is every reason to think Basel will take their place in the last 16 and consign Liverpool to the UEFA Cup.
Gross, who had a less-than-profitable spell in English football when he coached Tottenham Hotspur between November 1997 and September 1998, will particularly relish the chance to advance at a Premiership team's expense. He will have every confidence after a 1-1 draw between the sides at Anfield in September.
Regarding tonight, he added that his tactics before the game were to ensure Spartak could not build up a head of steam while trying to nick a goal at the other end should a chance present itself. It worked to perfection, not surprisingly leaving him "very happy about the result". He added: "Before the game we would even have been satisfied with a draw."
Errors at the back
Spartak assistant coach Viktor Samokhin said defensive mistakes and an inability to make possession count had cost his side again and ensured a 16th Champions League match without a win. He urged his team to look to the future after the defeat ended any hopes of reaching the UEFA Cup with a third-place finish. After four straight losses in the competition, they already knew they had no chance of taking their Champions League involvement any further.
Lesson for youngsters
He said: "Our young players have received an invaluable experience. I think they will learn from these mistakes for the remaining games of this season and especially for the future. I hope our fans will enjoy our play next season."
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