Mourinho’s magic wand is waning as Basel raid Bridge
Swiss side claim first victory in England after Chelsea take lead
Eden Hazard and another debutant, Willian, sensed joy against their respective full backs, the Brazilian tormenting a hapless Behrang Safari through the opening exchanges. But, even so, the initial burst of adrenaline rather fizzled out, invention draining away and the home side running aground on massed ranks of industrious Swiss. It took almost half an hour for the home side to muster a shot, and even then Hazard’s attempt flew rather desperately high and wide into the Shed end.
Basel were growing more assured, gaining confidence from their apparent central solidity, with Valentin Stocker clever in the pass when relieving the pressure and Mohamed Salah, a scorer in the Europa semi-final between these sides here back in April, a menace when allowed to run.
The winger teased even Ashley Cole, scurrying regularly into space beyond the full back. Had he allied better judgment in his final pass or shot, Chelsea might have been exposed. As it was, they retired with a lead upon which to cling.
As the Swiss contemplated half-time satisfaction, David Luiz was permitted to amble forward, Lampard collected possession and slipped a pass inside Safari, and Oscar’s first-time finish back across Yann Sommer was supremely accurate.
The 22-year-old enjoys this stage having scored twice against Juventus in last season’s opening group game, even if his first campaign in England had only gone on to offer glimpses of his undoubted ability. There is a muscularity to Oscar’s game that will appeal to Mourinho, a creator who can also shield or even claim back the ball, and has effectively elevated him to first-choice No 10 ahead of Juan Mata this term.
It is the skill that catches the eye more often, his natural ability neatly encapsulated in the collection, touch and shot which arced on to the crossbar from just outside the corner of the penalty area after the interval. He repeated the trick moments later, as if to prove it had been no fluke, only for an opponent to deflect the shot narrowly wide. Sommer was static and helpless on each occasion.
The playmaker was dominating Chelsea’s forays forward by then, slipping passes to Hazard or Willian at ease. Having mustered so little, Basel’s first coherent passing exchange of the second period sliced the home side apart, the ball transferred slickly from left to right before Salah guided a wonderful curled finish beyond Petr Cech and into the corner.
Mourinho’s shoulders slumped as his team cursed their inability to muster an interception. Their mood would darken yet further before the end. This was a nightmarish start in a group that had initially seemed a formality.