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FC Basel 1893 were left with faint hopes of qualification from UEFA Champions League Group E after a narrow but deserved 1-0 victory against CFR 1907 Cluj, who will now finish bottom of the section.
Federico Almerares' 15th-minute strike proved decisive for the Swiss side, who in spite of a tense opening managed to keep their composure. Still, the three points are unlikely to be enough for Basel to reach the round of 16 after AS Roma's 3-2 victory against FC Bayern München left them needing victory in Germany, and a Roma defeat in Cluj-Napoca in a fortnight's time.
With both sides aware that only a win would guarantee their survival in the competition, the nervousness was evident early on as a focus on avoiding errors held sway. Xherdan Shaqiri attempted to alleviate the tension with a couple of long-range shots, while at the other end Juan Culio was let down by his chest control after being picked out in the box by Leo Veloso.
The Basel fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief with a quarter of an hour gone, however, as Samuel Inkoom picked out Almerares with a fizzing low ball into the area to which the Argentinian frontman applied a sliding finish. Buoyed by the opener, the Swiss titleholders almost struck a second minutes later, but Alexander Frei's deflected shot was cleared off the line by Felice Piccolo.
The hosts threatened again when Behrang Safari's double effort was blocked first by Tony and then Cadú on the line, though gilt-edged opportunities were few and far between. CFR's struggles in the final third continued into the second half, and it took until the hour mark for the next decent chance to materialise. Again, it went the way of the hosts, but Fwayo Tembo's deflected strike was flicked onto the bar by the outstretched leg of Nuno Claro.
Frei thought he had put the game beyond doubt on 73 minutes only to see his close-range finish ruled out for offside, but in truth Basel had little to worry about in the latter stages, particularly after Piccolo was given a straight red two minutes from time. Thorsten Fink's side are now guaranteed at least third spot, which would yield a UEFA Europa League berth. CFR, meanwhile, are left to concentrate on their domestic title push.
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