Mourinho’s magic wand is waning as Basel raid Bridge
Swiss side claim first victory in England after Chelsea take lead
Basel’s Mohamed Salah curls home his side’s first goal as Chelsea’s Ashley Cole looks on during the Champions League game at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Chelsea 1 Basel 2: It is barely two months into José Mourinho’s second coming but, already, any fanciful hopes that the Portuguese would wave his magic wand and right all that was wrong in these parts have been dispelled.
The last time he had overseen the home side in this arena Chelsea had been held by unfancied opponents from Norway, were booed off and he had been sacked within 48 hours. Six years on and, pitted against a Basel team who had never previously won in England, his return yielded an even more damaging result.
Marco Streller’s near-post header from a corner eight minutes from time, Gary Cahill having been inadvertently obstructed by Samuel Eto’o to lose the striker amid the six-yard box clutter, condemned the London side to a first Champions League defeat at home in the group stage in almost 10 years and 30 matches.
This felt horribly wasteful, a position of apparent authority surrendered so carelessly and even the flurry of late chances created utterly unconvincing. Mourinho departed down the tunnel with head bowed. A fourth game without a win ensured initiative has been lost early in the section. It will take some recovering even from here.
All that talk of nurturing “beautiful, young eggs” in the build-up, with Mourinho having pledged to select a quartet of players 22 or under, had turned out to be exaggerated at best. The manager had resisted flinging all four of his younger charges – albeit each of them a full international – from the outset, with three included instead.
More pointedly, the average age of the starting line-up was actually almost 28, a figure admittedly swollen by Frank Lampard’s inclusion as captain. There may be a long-term vision at this club, but this is not a side overflowing with youthful exuberance. Those being introduced are, quite sensibly, making their mark with plenty of older, more experienced heads around them. Given the improvement already clear in the likes of Oscar this season, it is a tactic that is paying off.
Not that this was straightforward. Chelsea may have led at the break, but they had rarely been fluent and, had the Brazilian not registered on the stroke of half-time, the hosts may have departed to grumbling frustration. This remains a group growing accustomed to each other’s company.
While Marco van Ginkel made his first start patrolling central midfield – one shuddering early challenge on Giovanni Sio in particular set the tone – Eto’o, on his home debut, bustled in the lone forward brief, his movement clever enough but his reactions strangely rusty for someone who had been parachuted in from a Russian league in full swing.