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Basel put brakes on Salzburg

FC Basel 1893 0-0 FC Salzburg
The visitors were denied a victory for the first time in this season's UEFA Europa League in a round of 16 opener of few chances.

Basel put brakes on Salzburg
Basel put brakes on Salzburg ©UEFA.com

FC Salzburg maintained their unbeaten run but have work to do to advance after a tense UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg ended goalless against FC Basel 1893 in Switzerland.

The visitors appeared more likely to break the deadlock but were met by the steely resistance of last year's semi-finalists who, driven on by the desire of midfielder Serey Die, did enough to take a goalless draw back to Austria next week following a match of few chances. 

Roger Schmidt's side began proceedings high on confidence, taking control of midfield. They also forced an exceptional early save from Yann Sommer when Stefan Ilsanker's wicked free-kick evaded a cluster of players and seemed destined for the far corner. Sommer was by far the busier of the goalkeepers, twice repelling Kevin Kampl and also having to deal with a headed attempt from the tricky Sadio Mané.

Early on, the hosts were limited to counterattacks, from which Matías Delgado lofted an effort over from 15 metres. However, as the first period progressed, Murat Yakin's team became equal stakeholders in the contest. After good work from Philipp Degen, Giovanni Sio's angled header drifted over and optimism filtered through St. Jakob-Park when Valentin Stocker created an opening with clever positioning and footwork, only to be denied by Péter Gulácsi.

Both sides were happy to keep the play compact in the second half, restricting the regularity of opportunities at either end. Salzburg pressed out wide down each channel but were frustrated by Basel's discipline and resilience. Indeed, such virtues looked like bringing a reward for the Swiss outfit, only for Gulácsi to twice keep out low drives from Die, who earned a standing ovation for his contribution.

The midfielder had collected a booking in the 14th minute that rules him out of the second leg but gave a dedicated and stirring display thereafter. Still, the runaway Austrian Bundesliga leaders were keen to have the last word, with substitute Valon Berisha testing Sommer soon after coming on but there was to be no breakthrough.