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Basel's Huggel pegs back Benfica

SL Benfica 1-1 FC Basel 1893
Rodrigo gave the home side the perfect start with a fourth-minute volley but Benjamin Huggel's well-worked equaliser earned a valuable Group C point.

Basel's Huggel pegs back Benfica
Basel's Huggel pegs back Benfica ©UEFA.com

SL Benfica missed the chance to secure qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as FC Basel 1893 fought back strongly to keep their own hopes alive with a valuable Group C point in Lisbon.

Rodrigo put the hosts ahead early on amid a torrent of Benfica pressure, but Benjamin Huggel's equaliser midway through the second half means Heiko Vogel's side will travel to Bucharest to face FC Oţelul Galaţi on matchday five full of confidence. The Lisbon club will attempt to retake control of the section when they visit Manchester United FC, with whom they are now level on eight points.

Benfica first threatened with less than a minute played, Pablo Aimar jinking through the defence to find Rodrigo, whose shot was turned behind via the outside of the post by Yann Sommer. From the resulting Aimar corner, Nemanja Matić's header was swatted away by Sommer.

Rodrigo was not to be denied for long, though, and duly gave the hosts the lead in the fourth minute. Nicolás Gaitán's intelligent headed knockdown created the opening, and the 20-year-old thumped a crisp left-footed volley into the top corner of the net. The slick playing surface perfectly suited the home team's fluent style and they came close to extending the lead in the 19th minute when Ezequiel Garay nodded narrowly wide after an excellent delivery from Gaitán.

Apart from a few speculative long-range efforts from the lively Xherdan Shaqiri, Basel failed to trouble the confident Artur, despite clawing back significant territorial advantage as the interval approached. Just past the half-hour Fabian Frei had the visitors' first clear sight of goal, but he headed Jacques Zoua's cross wide when well placed.

The Eagles began the second period looking to give themselves a cushion and they pinned back Vogel's side. Twice in a matter of minutes Rodrigo had the chance to stretch the lead, first blazing Aimar's crossfield pass over the top and then heading straight at Sommer from a Maxi Pereira cross.

Benfica were made to regret those misses on 64 minutes, Frei's header setting Scott Chipperfield racing down the left. The Australian's low cross was met first time by the onrushing Huggel, who placed a superb shot inside Artur's right-hand post from just inside the area.

The Swiss side almost fell behind again immediately as Axel Witsel slid a pass through to Rodrigo, but the goalscorer could only find the side netting from a narrow angle to leave Group C finely poised.