Shaqiri treble keeps Swiss hopes alive
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Switzerland 3-1 Bulgaria
Xherdan Shaqiri's hat-trick helped Switzerland come from behind to defeat Lothar Matthäus's side and revive their qualification hopes.
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Switzerland's hopes of qualifying for UEFA EURO 2012 remain alive after Ottmar Hitzfeld's charges recovered from a goal down to seal a crucial 3-1 victory in Basel.
The hosts knew from the outset that only a win could realistically preserve their hopes of securing second place in Group G but that plan came under threat as Ivan Ivanov gave the visitors an early lead. The UEFA EURO 2008 co-hosts reacted well, however, clawing their way back into the match with an equaliser on the stroke of half-time through Xherdan Shaqiri, who went on to score twice more after the interval.
The match was only nine minutes old when the visitors took the lead, Stiliyan Petrov meeting Martin Petrov's corner with a firm header which Diego Benaglio could only parry into the path of Ivanov who gleefully scored from close range. Thereafter the visitors sat back to protect their lead, and Switzerland struggled to find a reply. Eren Derdiyok ploughed a hardworking but lonely furrow in the lone striker role and Hitzfeld's side were reduced to ambitious shots from range.
It was not until added time at the end of the first half that the hosts created a genuine goalscoring chance, but when they did, it produced a morale-boosting equaliser. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Admir Mehmedi propelled the ball forward, where Shaqiri turned towards goal, exchanged a quick give-and-go with Derdiyok and, to the relief of16,880 spectators, rippled the net with a powerful right-footed shot.
After the interval, Mehmedi and Granit Xhaka began alternating positions on the left and right flanks, and, the former fortuitously found Shaqiri who curled a fine effort low past Nikolay Mihaylov. Switzerland were now in the ascendancy and so was the impressive Shaqiri, who on his home pitch completed a memorable night – and an important hat-trick – when Blerim Dzemaili's corner reached him on the edge of the area; the FC Basel 1893 playmaker sent it back into the top corner of the net with interest.
Switzerland are nine points behind leaders group leaders England, over whom they have a game in hand with two matches remaining. More pertinently, they are now within three points of second-placed Montenegro, who are their final opponents in Basel on 11 October, four days after they take on Wales in Swansea.