A stunning early free-kick from Matías Delgado set FC Basel 1893 on course for a commanding 2-0 victory against RC Strasbourg at St. Jakob-Park as the Swiss side took the initiative in their UEFA Cup last-16 tie and avenged their group stage defeat.
Strasbourg ran out 2-0 victors when the sides met earlier on in the competition, with early goals from Amara Diané and fellow Ivorian Arthur Boka proving sufficient in Basle, but any hopes of a repeat were soon vanquished. Just eight minutes had elapsed when Argentinian midfielder Delgado picked himself up after a Gnoleba Edgard Loué foul and curled a superb free-kick around the wall to break the deadlock. The French team fought back in the second half before Zdravko Kuzmanovic secured a healthy two-goal lead to take to La Meinau next week.
It was a big blow for the visitors, who spent much of the first half on the back foot as Christian Gross' team sprinted out of the blocks. Only a timely intervention from Loué prevented David Degen from doubling the lead on 16 minutes, while goalkeeper Nicolas Puydebois did well to hang on to efforts from Papa Malick Ba and Mladen Petrić. The initiative firmly with the home team, Eduardo spurned a gilt-edged opportunity on the half-hour mark, turning David Degan's cross the wrong side of the post.
Strasbourg coach Jacky Duguépéroux brought on Yacine Abdessadki at the expense of Loué at the interval, and the change rejuvenated the French team. Diané headed Alexander Farnerud's 67th-minute free-kick just wide and that proved a sign of things to come in the closing stages as Basel were forced to defend. Kuzmanovic was brought on to help the midfield deal with the deluge and he surpassed expectations, heading in Delgado's left-wing free-kick from close range to double the advantage and give Basel added breathing space.