(Translated by Thomas Snaith)
Before the game:
After an impressive performance against Lausanne, Raphael Wicky only made one change to his successful team: Dimitri Oberlin replaced striker Albian Ajeti. Swiss international Haris Seferovic found himself in the starting lineup for Benfica, for the first time since 27. October, where his team faced CD Feirense. His last UCL appearance in the starting lineup was during Benfica´s away fixture at St. Jakob Park.
Basel have participated in the UEFA Champions League group stages on 8 separate occasion, yet only had zero chance of qualification on 2 previous accounts (2008/2009) and (2016/2017). Basel qualified on 3 occasions: 2002/2003, 2011/2012 and 2014/2016. Twice the Swiss Champions failed to qualify, 2010/2011 and 2013/2014.
The 1st half:
FCB had the perfect start to their final group stage fixture against Benfica. Two minutes after kickoff, Renato Steffen launched Miachel Lang down the wing, who presented Mohamed Elyounoussi with the perfect cross, ending with a precise header into the back of the net.. GOAL for FCB! The game developed into an interesting fixture, both teams creating chances. No more goals were scored in the 1st half. Just before half time, news came through that ZSKA Moscow had scored against ManU, resulting in equal points, shared between FCB, ManU and the Russians. In that moment in time both Manchester and Basel were through to the next round, based on goal difference. Raphael Wicky did not mention the other result at half time: “We did not talk about the other fixture but I guess the player knew the result. We used the half time break to discuss where we could improve and what we can do better.”
The 2nd half:
Not much happened for 65 minutes in Estádio da Luz but then FCB was rewarded, twice. Dimitri Oberlin scored with a diving header; 2:0 and Manchester United scored two goals in a short period of time, leading their fixture 2:1, after ZSKA took the lead. Remelo Lukaku and Marcus Rashford both scored for ManU, securing victory. Basel´s opponents were not creating too much danger and Renato Steffen nearly scored after a mistake by Benfica keeper Mile Silvar. Minutes before the end it was Steffen who just failed to score the 3:0.
After the game:
FCB have never been as successful in any of their UCL group stages, based on points won: Basel impressed in their difficult group, winning 12 points, achieved by two wins against Benfica, an away victory against ZSKA Moscow and a home victory against Manchester United. FC Basel´s group stage record so far has been 11 points (season 2011/2012), with nearly the same opponents, apart from ZSKA Moscow instead of FC Otelul Galati.
FCB impressed throughout the group stage, in all six fixtures – FCB played for all or nothing, resulting in two losses and four wins. FC Basel 1893 were not distracted by their initial defeat in Manchester (0:3) nor their surprising home game defeat against ZSKA Moscow (1:2). FCB continued to believe in themselves, showing strong performances, especially towards the end of their campaign, resulting in qualification for the next round. FC Basel only had to depend on Manchester United´s result on one occasion; If ManU would have lost 0:3 at home against ZSKA Moscow then the Russians would have ended up ahead of FCB.
Marco Streller gave praise to coach Raphael Wicky after the game, expressing that one can see Wicky´s impact he has had on the entire team and the way they perform. Wicky commented: “I have stated from the beginning that I am team player and work very closely with the staff, not only consisting of the assistant coach but also others such as the medical team. I am very appreciative of the help I receive from the entire staff.”
„I am a person with delayed emotions “
A short recap of the UCL campaign so far: „ I am very happy and very proud at how the team handled difficult situations, such as the away loss in Manchester and the home defeat against Moscow. Who would have thought that we would end the group stages with 12 points; it was a difficult group. It took me a moment to realize what we have achieved. I have always said that I am a person with delayed emotions.”
Highlights of the group stage have been; 5:0 in the first leg against Benfica, the 1:0 against Manchester United at St. Jakob Park, the 2:1 victory in Moscow and the recent win against Benfica in Portugal. A strong performance overall. These performances underline the fact that FCB deserve the qualification for the next round of the UEFA Champions League. The only other 2nd placed team with more points than FC Basel is the German record champions FC Bayern Munich.
SL Benfica – FC Basel 1893 0:2 (0:1)
Estádio da Luz. – 22'470 Attendance. – Referee Jesús Gil Manzano.
Goals: 5. Elyounoussi 0:1 (Lang). 65. Oberlin 0:2 (Akanji).
Benfica: Svilar; Douglas, Lisandro López, Jardel, Eliseu; João Carvalho, Samaris (73. André Almeida), Pizzi (73. Barbosa); Zivkovic, Seferovic, Diogo Gonçalves (62. Jonas).
FCB: Vaclik; Suchy, Akanji, Balanta; Lang, Xhaka, Zuffi, Petretta (82. Riveros); Steffen (94. Fransson), Oberlin (88. Bua), Elyounoussi.
Notes: Benfica Rúben Dias (injured). FCB without Serey Die, Vailati, van Wolfswinkel (all injured) and Gaber (illness). Substitutes FCB: Ajeti, Bua, Itten, Fransson, Manzambi, Riveros und Salvi. – Yellow Cards: 9. Xhaka (Foul). 63. Akanji (Foul). 74. Petretta (Foul).