Before the fixture:
As Edon Zhegrova and Kevin Bua were injured, Marcel Koller's options were limited in regards wingers. The FCB coach decided to play Raoul Petretta in a more offensive position, as he did during the home game against Getafe CF. Samuele Campo started for Orges Bunjaku, who had been on the starting line-up in the last two games. The rest of the team was identical to the one that started against Thun on Saturday.
Swiss national Dragan Mihajlovic was in the starting line-up, while Swede Linus Hallenius, who had played for FC Lugano and FC Aarau, was on the bench. Not to be seen on the side line was APOEL head coach Marinos Ouzounidis. APOEL´s new coach watched from the stands, due to a suspension he received in 2018 when he coached AEK Athens.
Fabian Frei had more than one reason to celebrate in Cyprus. Basel´s number 20 played his 350th fixture for FCB. Valentin Stocker made his 79th European Cup appearance for FC Basel, making him the FCB player with most European Cup appearances in club history.
The first Half:
After a timid start to the fixture FCB started to get into gear. Raoul Petretta missed the goal with his first attempt on target (15.), but a little later the full-back turned winger had his next chance: Eray Cömert´s pass from the other side of the pitch found Petretta who defeated Praxitelis Vouros then keeper Vid Belec, scoring the opener for the visitors, 1-0.
We showed solidarity in defensive and remained calm in attack.
The first half started well, in which FCB could have scored even more goals. However, Belec saved Silvan Widmer´s close range header (27.) and Arthur Cabral´s shot (40.), showing off his good reflexes. There was little to see from the hosts in the first half. Uros Matic´s shot went flying over the bar in the 16th minute, which was their closest chance of equalizing.
The second Half:
As the second half began, FCB picked up where they left off in the first half, dominating the fixture. After only eight minutes Valentin Stocker increased the score to 2: 0. APOEL´s defence failed to intercept Omar Alderete´s a long pass to Samuele Campo, who flicked the ball to Fabian Frei, who perfectly set up Stocker to score Basel´s 2nd goal of the night.
We wanted to reach our limits and create opportunities. This is what we did.
Just when the hosts were in their most dangerous phase and attempted to rupture FCB´s confidence with two long-range shots, Rotblau responded perfectly - with a long-range belter: Arthur Cabral made it 3-0 with a low shot from a distance. As a result, FCB no longer ran the risk of conceding a goal - let alone giving up their lead.
After the fixture:
FCB´s reaction to their defeat in the championship against FC Thun was perfect. After the first quarter of an hour, the ball was continuously played towards APOEL's goal. And just when the hosts seemed to come into play and find their bearings, FCB scored again, 3:0.
Now we must show this level of concentration and determination in every game which lies ahead.
The victory is well deserved and the outlook for the second leg next Thursday is very positive, thanks to this strong, solidary performance. Nevertheless, there is still at least 90 minutes to go in order to reach the next round, but of course this is more than within reach.
APOEL FC – FC Basel 1893 0:3 (0:1)
GSP Stadium. – Referee Orel Grinfeld (Israel).
Goals: 15. Petretta 0:1 (Cömert). 53. Stocker 0:2 (Frei). 66. Cabral 0:3 (Petretta).
APOEL: Belec; Vouros, Merkis, Ioannou; Jensen, Alef; Mihajlovic, de Vincenti (71. Jakolis), Suleiman, Matic; Pavlovic (56. Hallenius).
FCB: Omlin; Widmer, Cömert, Alderete, Riveros; Xhaka, Frei (85. Bunjaku); Stocker, Campo, Petretta (80. Pululu); Cabral (74. Ademi).
Notes: APOEL without Savic (suspended). FCB without Bua, Kuzmanovic, van der Werff, van Wolfswinkel, Zhegrova and Zuffi (alle injured). Substitutes FCB: Ademi, Bergström, Bunjaku, Marchand, Nikolic, Pululu and Ramires. – Yellow Cards: 28. Pavlovic. 62. Alderete (suspended in next fixture). 73. Matic. 73. Stocker. 83. Jensen. – 58. Hit the crossbar Cabral. – 350th fixture for FCB - Fabian Frei.