Basel pull Champions League’s first big upset, beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (Video)

Leave a comment

José Mourinho’s Champions League return with Chelsea was relegated to an afterthought, given Napoli was hosting one of last year’s finalists (Borussia Dortmund), Gerardo Martino was making his competition debut with Barcelona, and the Arsenal Özils were visiting the newly-covered Velodrome in Marseille. Basel, however, made us rue our inattention. The Swiss champions sprung the competition’s first major upset, using two late goals to take a 2-1 win out of Stamford Bridge.

The result could have major, long-term implications on Group G, which also contains Schalke (3-0 home winners on Wednesday) at Steaua Bucharest. The short-term implications, however, will cast major doubt on a Chelsea team who, while still talented enough to make this look like blip, have now suffered one of their more notable losses in the Roman Abramovich era.

The game started slowly, with neither team registering a shot until well into the first half. While the teams would go into intermission even, Chelsea had come to dictate the game by the time the halftime whistle blew. That they scored through Oscar moments into the second half was only a mild surprise.

Chelsea would go on to exert a mild control on the next 20 minutes, keeping Basel without a shot until Marco Steller setup Mohamed Salah coming in from the right. The winger’s left-footed curler beat Petr Cech for a surprise equalizer, making it 1-1 after 70 minutes.

That could have served as a wake up call, giving the heavy favorites 20 minutes to claim full points. But Chelsea didn’t generate another chance before Streller had gotten onto the scoresheet himself, heading home an 81st minute corner to give Basel an improbable win.

Murat Yakin’s side have been in Champions League enough for people to know their quality. Two years ago, they bested Manchester United to get out of group play, sending the Red Devils to Europe League. Last year, they made that tournament’s final four.

Chelsea themselves should be familiar with them, having faced them en route to last year’s Europa League title, but evidently, the threat never set in. Even with Willian and Marco van Ginkel getting their first starts, the team should have had enough to pull through.

Instead, Chelsea find themselves third in group play after one round, only Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest keeping them from the cellar. Because they’ll be favored in the rest of their group matches, this result shouldn’t cause panic. Rather, it should be a reminder: Objects in mirror are more dangerous than they appear.

For Basel, however, these are huge points – a result that’s potentially bad news for Schalke. The Germans were expected to compete with the Swiss champions for second in this group, and with a 3-0 win at home, they showed themselves capable. But Basel just took full points where Schalke are likely to get none, while Jens Keller’s team merely held serve. Somewhere, the Miners may have to make up that ground.

Clinical Russia tops Egypt to reach knockout rounds

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Russia goals: Fathy o.g. (48′), Cheryshev (59′), Dzyuba (62′)
  • Egypt: Salah (PK, 73′)
  • Next: Russia-Uruguay, Egypt-Saudi Arabia

Hosts Russia scored a trio of second half goals to clinch the first spot in the 2018 World Cup’s Round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.

The loss means Egypt is 0-2, the Pharoahs unable to find momentum despite the return of Mohamed Salah. Egypt needs a wild combination of factors to stay alive for the knockout rounds, and is likely heading home.

Salah won and converted a penalty for Egypt, while Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba, and an Egyptian own goal accounted for Russia’s goals.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Some sloppy play out of the back allowed Golovin a shot from outside the 18 but he hit his effort wide of the frame.

Egypt stayed in the mix though, and a Russian mistake  deep in its own end forced Zhirkov to concede a corner with a desperation intervention that stopped Mo Salah from a doorstep opportunity.

Salah then won a yard of space but fired wide in the 42nd minute after Zhirkov stopped him from going to his right peg.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Russia went ahead through an Egypt own goal from Fathy, who was jostling for position with Artem Dzyuba and turned Roman Zobnin’s mishit inside his net.

After Cheryshev made it 2-0, Dzyuba took an Ilya Kutepov long ball out of the air with his chest before turning past Ahmed Hegazy and blasting Russia’s third goal home.

Salah won a penalty in the 73rd minute, one initially ruled a free kick, and the Liverpool man blasted his shot home.

Neymar limps out of Brazil training

AP Photo/Andre Penner
Leave a comment

Having drawn against Switzerland in its opener, Brazil now faces renewed concerns over the health of its megastar forward.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Neymar’s right foot was “still not 100 percent” when he took the field for the 1-1 draw on Sunday, and the 26-year-old left practice early two days later.

He missed nearly three months after fracturing his foot for PSG under pressure by Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, but returned to score for Brazil in friendly defeats of Croatia and Austria. Neymar has 55 goals in 85 caps.

Neymar was favoring his right foot as he limped off the pitch, two days after being fouled 10 times against Switzerland. Fox reports that Neymar will be fine to practice on Wednesday, but the situation bears close observation.

Neymar was injured in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals when Juan Zuniga kneed him in the back.

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

 

Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

Getty Images
2 Comments

Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.