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Basel hang on to set up United showdown

FC Oţelul Galaţi 2-3 FC Basel 1893
Three goals up at half-time, Basel survived a fightback to ensure they will tackle Manchester United FC for a qualifying berth.

Basel hang on to set up United showdown
Basel hang on to set up United showdown ©UEFA.com

FC Basel 1893 will take on Manchester United FC for a place in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 in two weeks' time after hanging on for a 3-2 victory against FC Oţelul Galaţi.

The Freis, first Fabian and then Alexander, both struck inside 15 minutes and when Basel captain Marco Streller added a third eight minutes before the break it seemed to have drawn a line under this as a contest. But his opposite number Gabriel Giurgiu gave the home supporters something to cheer and they really began to believe when Liviu Antal reduced the deficit still further with nine minutes left, only for Basel to hold on for three vital Group C points.

It was Giurgiu's team who had taken an immediate grip on the contest. How different a story it might have been had Cristian Sârghi converted the chance that Laurenţiu Iorga's free-kick laid on for him at the far post. The ball came quickly to the defender and he could only steer his header over the bar.

Oţelul's pressing game looked to be working well but the illusion could not be sustained and Basel's stealth on the counterattack was soon to pay dividends. It was a neat move that provided the opening goal, Alexander Frei knocking the ball forward for Streller to tee up Fabian Frei and while the shot was hard and true, Branko Grahovac looked disappointed not to keep it out.

The Swiss league leaders now played with the attitude of a team who knew this bitterly cold night held the possibility of more goals. The second followed four minutes later as Oţelul's offside trap came apart, leaving Streller to stride on. He could have gone for goal himself but unselfishly chipped the ball across for Alexander Frei to volley in.

Streller got his goal in the 37th minute, staying cool under pressure from two defenders to easily beat Grahovac after Adrian Sălăgeanu's clearance had hit Alexander Frei's back and fallen for the tall No9.

Basel played out the first 30 minutes of the second half without mishap. But when Giurgiu scored from just inside the area the complexion changed and Oţelul found a new momentum. Park Joo Ho was then too casual in the area, allowing Antal to dispossess the left-back, finish smartly and set up a tense finale.

Yann Sommer was not to be beaten again, though, and St. Jakob-Park will be rocking when the 2009 champions come calling on matchday six, when only a win will be enough to send Basel through with SL Benfica.