FC Basel 1893 kept alive their hopes of UEFA Cup progress with a phenomenal comeback against Tromsø IL in Switzerland last night.
After trailing the Norwegian side 3-1 at the interval in their Group E encounter, Christian Gross's men put in a performance worthy of their magical 2002/03 UEFA Champions League campaign to win 4-3 and send 15,000 fans at St. Jakob-Park into raptures.
As the referee's full-time whistle blew, Basel's substitutes flooded on to the pitch to share in the glory of their remarkable recovery, and even the usually level-headed Gross was pleased. "The players can be proud of their display," he said.
An hour into the game, it seemed the cold weather had frozen Basel, but having remembered Gross's half-time exhortation - "If they can score three times in one half, so can we" - the Swiss team scored three in 14 minutes to turn the tie around.
Matías Delgado, Scott Chipperfield and David Degen all found the target, and Mladen Petrić and Eduardo had opportunities to add further insult to Tromsø's injury before full time. "It was fantastic," said Gross. "Beside the four goals, we had several first-class chances."
Supporters had reason to question Basel's finishing ability for much of the match. Defensive blunders may have led to their half-time deficit, but between the 31st and 39th minutes, Delgado, Eduardo, Julio Rossi and Degen all squandered inviting openings.
Match-winner Degen appeared slightly embarrassed as he reflected on proceedings. "We were the better team in both halves," he said. "We had so many chances. I should have scored twice myself. But we have showed a lot of character again. We are a good side and we know that."
Now Basel need just one point from their final-day trip to AS Roma to guarantee a place in the last 32. Tromsø, meanwhile, are out of the competition after completing their fixtures.
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