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Honours even for Ludogorets and Basel in Sofia

Ludogorets keeper Vladislav Stoyanov caught the eye with a hat-trick of saves as a 0-0 draw with Basel ensured the battle for third spot in Group A will go down to the wire.

Honours even for Ludogorets and Basel in Sofia
Honours even for Ludogorets and Basel in Sofia ©AFP/Getty Images

The battle for third spot in UEFA Champions League Group A will go down to matchday six after once again nothing could separate Ludogorets and Basel.

These sides drew 1-1 on matchday one and collected their second points of the section in Sofia in an encounter short on chances. The Bulgarian team now travel to Paris Saint-Germain in a fortnight knowing they must match whatever Basel manage at home to Arsenal to pip the Swiss champions to the UEFA Europa League.

Éder Balanta vies with Jonathan Cafú
Éder Balanta vies with Jonathan Cafú©AFP/Getty Images

The better opportunities fell to Basel. Luca Zuffi warmed Vladislav Stoyanov's gloves twice in the first half, and the home keeper excelled himself with a fine save to deny Mohamed Elyounoussi in the closing exchanges following a rare defensive error.

Key player: Vladislav Stoyanov (Ludogorets)
Stoyanov has suffered criticism this season but his form has improved of late and he held firm whenever Basel worked a way through his defensive wall of green, most notably with the solid right hand that repelled Elyounoussi's rasping effort. It was entirely instinctive, yet enough to earn only Ludogorets' second ever group stage clean sheet. The first? That came against Basel, too.

Ludogorets show their mettle
Before the game many wondered whether Ludogorets actually had it in them to play solidly at the back. Basel discovered that they can indeed. The central pair of José Luis Palomino and Cosmin Moţi were impressive while right-back Cicinho, on his UEFA Champions League debut, caught the eye. However, Stoyanov outshone them all.

Matchday one: Basel 1-1 Ludogorets
Matchday one: Basel 1-1 Ludogorets

Cancelling each other out
This was the sides' sixth meeting in three seasons and there was certainly an element of familiarity in their play, with Ludogorets starving Basel of time on the ball and the visitors ever wary of being hit on the break. It wasn't until late on that chinks were found in both sets of armour, but neither team could capitalise.

Reporter's view

Stoyan Georgiev (@UEFAcomStoyanG)
Ludogorets now have the upper hand in the battle for third place in Group A, but it remains difficult to predict who will snatch the UEFA Europa League spot. Ludogorets have a trip to Paris where it is hard to imagine them getting much joy. Meanwhile, Basel host Arsenal and a draw could yet be enough. There is still so little to choose between these two outfits.

©AFP/Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images