FC Basel won through to the UEFA Champions League second group stage on their competition debut after a thrilling 3-3 draw against four-times European champions Liverpool FC.
Liverpool had gone into the game needing a win to pip Basel to second place in Group B, but found themselves three goals down within the first half-hour following a textbook display of quick, one-touch attacking inspired by Hakan Yakin, and an exhilarating second-half comeback was not enough for the visitors, who now enter the UEFA Cup third round.
Basel coach Christian Gross brought striker Christian Giménez and defender Thimothée Atouba into his team in the only changes from the lineup that won 2-0 at FC Spartak Moskva in last week's delayed Matchday Five game, but no one could have predicted how spectacularly those choices would pay off.
With Liverpool, who had selected Vladimír Šmicer in an attacking midfield, moving forward from the start, Basel hit their visitors on the break and were ahead within 90 seconds. An Antonio Esposito ball sent Hakan Yakin clear on the Basel left, and his perfect cross enabled Julio Hernán Rossi to tap past Jerzy Dudek to delight the capacity home crowd.
Ten minutes later, Emile Heskey's deceptive 30-metre shot forced Pascal Zuberbühler to make a fine save, diving across his goal to tip on to the crossbar, but not long afterwards Dudek had to be alert to stop a Hakan Yakin free-kick. Basel continued to press and on 22 minutes they doubled their lead on the break. Rossi squared to Hakan Yakin in midfield and his first-time through-ball sent Giménez clear, the Argentinian striker making no mistake.
Within seven minutes it was 3-0. Hakan Yakin was fouled by Dietmar Hamann 30 metres from the Liverpool goal, and got up to take the free-kick himself. Dudek could only palm his shot away, and Atouba was on hand to stab in the rebound and give Basel a seemingly impregnable lead going into the break.
Gross's team did not let up after half-time, and on the hour Dudek had to block with Giménez through on goal. However, Liverpool pulled one back within seconds when Šmicer touched the ball to Murphy on the edge of the box, and the England midfield player made no mistake. Four minutes later, Šmicer turned goalscorer to make it 3-2 when he slid in to convert after an outrageous flick from newly-arrived substitute Milan Baroš.
Despite this setback, Basel continued to play brightly, Rossi twice going close and Dudek turning an Ivan Ergic effort round the post with his head. But with five minutes left Liverpool suddenly had real hope when Owen won a penalty after Murat Yakin's handball, then converted the rebound after his initial effort was saved by Zuberbühler.
Nonetheless, Basel held firm and no one could deny that they are worthy of their place in Europe's elite 16.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.