With discipline and no little flair, FC Basel 1893 took command of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final against Valencia CF.
In a match played behind closed doors, the Swiss title holders excelled despite a lengthy list of absentees, Matías Delgado registering twice in the space of five first-half minutes. Already facing a sizeable task ahead of the Mestalla return, Valencia fell further behind when Valentin Stocker broke away and rounded off the scoring in stoppage time.
The home team were brimming with belief from the off, seeking a second successive UEFA Europa League semi-final appearance. Through Stocker on the left and David Degen on the right, Basel looked to pressure from wide areas but were limited to long-range efforts during the opening exchanges. Indeed, the pattern of play remained unchanged even when Philippe Senderos was forced off through injury midway through the first period.
It took a moment of precision to beat Vicente Guaita on 34 minutes, Delgado receiving the ball 18 metres from goal, setting himself and drilling a right-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the opposite corner. Valencia were still recovering when Stocker picked out a delightful cross from the left, allowing Delgado to sneak ahead of Jérémy Mathieu and double the advantage four minutes later.
Juan Antonio Pizzi's side boasted only Seydou Keita's header in response but having seen that clear the crossbar from Daniel Parejo's corner, they went through the gears in the second half. The hosts, meanwhile, were trusting enough in their discipline without the ball to be content with the chess-like game that ensued.
Yann Sommer repelled an angled drive from Eduardo Vargas, who almost scored with a stooping header from Fede Cartabia's centre as Valencia gathered momentum. With the advent of Delgado's substitution, Murat Yakin's men opted to pack the midfield and play on the counter.
Their principal objective of denying an away goal was best exemplified by Gastón Sauro, whose lunging tackle to deter Vargas a tap-in was indicative of Basel's commitment. Still, Sommer had to stand firm against Keita's late effort to guarantee a clean sheet and had the added bonus of watching Stocker sprint away to score in the first minute of added time.
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