RC Deportivo La Coruña took an early lead and held on to beat FC Basel and revive their hopes of progress in the UEFA Champions League. Diego Tristán's goal in the fourth minute proved decisive in this Group D encounter, despite the valiant efforts of the visitors, who pressed throughout.
Deportivo, needing a victory to keep their dreams of a third consecutive quarter-final place alive after a 1-0 defeat in Switzerland last week, brought back the in-form Tristán up front with Roy Makaay, and fit-again captain Fran González in midfield to provide attacking impetus.
Meanwhile, Basel, one of the tournament's surprise packages, opted for a 4-5-1 formation. Carlos Varela, Scott Chipperfield, Benjamin Huggel and Sébastien Barberis formed a new-look midfield with Hakan Yakin supporting lone striker Christian Giménez, and Alexandre Quennoz replacing injured captain Murat Yakin in defence.
Both teams began in expansive mood, Giménez shooting over in the second minute for Basel, but it was Deportivo who made the perfect start. Lionel Scaloni fed Héctor Berenguel on the Deportivo right, and his cross eluded Basel goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler and fell to Tristán three metres from goal who finished coolly.
Basel's last trip to Spain had ended in a 6-2 defeat at Valencia CF, but this time they were not disheartened by falling behind and took the game to their hosts, controlling the midfield for long periods. Varela immediately forced a good save from Deportivo goalkeepr Juanmi García, and Giménez sent a header wide before the ten-minute mark.
End to end
Play flowed from end to end, with the visitors doing more than their fair share of attacking, yet clear-cut chances were relatively rare. Scaloni and Berenguel were proving threatening on the Deportivo right, while Hakan Yakin was his usual forceful self for Basel. Giménez, though, often seemed isolated, as the away side looked on top for long periods, but were unable to equalise by the break.
After half-time, Deportivo gained the initiative. Basel left-back Thimothée Atouba was especially busy, breaking up a number of promising moves with his formidable strength. Even Basel's introduction of prolific striker Julio Hernán Rossi and a switch to 4-4-2 just before the hour did not stem Deportivo's flow. Makaay had two chances stopped, one a fine save from Zuberbühler, who was playing at the peak of his form despite his early slip.
The arrival of José Amavisca and Juan Valerón as substitutes further bolstered Deportivo's attack, but, as throughout the game, goalscoring chances were few. And gradually, in the last 15 minutes, Basel began to find their feet again and press for an equaliser. Hakan Yakin continued to lead the way, but Juanmi was equal to anything the visitors could produce.
Deportivo substitute Alberto Luque nearly doubled the lead on the break, but he slipped after rounding Zuberbühler. Victory was Deportivo's, though, and their trip to Juventus FC on Matchday 11 could well decide who finishes as runners-up in Group D.