FC Basel is upset by Cluj while Monchengladbach nearly fight their way back in Ukraine in the last qualification round of the UEFA Champions League.
|Basel and Gladbach were sent packing|
The UEFA Champions League shows no mercy. After upsetting in the group stage and the first leg of the knockout stage last season, Swiss side Basel were sent home with a bitter defeat after they conceded one goal on the night, three overall against Cluj. Borussia Monchengladbach played out an exciting fixture, keeping the fans on their toes until the final whistle blew but unfortunately their Champions League campaign also came to a close this evening.
FC Basel were in need of a goal. Two, to be exact, and away goals at that. No easy task for the Swiss Champions as they faced off against the resilient Romanian side CFR Cluj. In the first leg of the fixture, Basel had taken the lead but fell behind and started to crumble on themselves by the second half. Too much strain was being put on the back line of the Swiss side and Sommer was unable to keep two nice finishes out of the back of his net. At the other end, Basel had been out of luck as well, hitting the woodwork and missing by narrow margins on more than on occasion.
It was a similar story of a stressed defensive line and no luck up front for Basel on the night of the return leg in Cluj. Again, they were able to create good chances for themselves but their ability to transition lacked the same pace and organization it did last season. Up front, they were awarded a penalty kick in the second half but Alex Frei's attempt went well over the bar, icing the cake on Cluj's 3-1 aggregate win and 1-0 victory on the night.
Meanwhile, over in Germany, former FC Basel star Granit Xhaka and his new club Borussia Monchengladbach were attempting to level a scoreline even more overwhelming than the one that the Swiss side had in store for them. After two unfortunate defensive mishaps that resulted in own goals, Monchengladbach had conceded three at home and only netted themselves one, giving Ukrainian opponents Dynamo Kyiv the 1-3 aggregate lead coming into this week's fixture. Gladbach had dominated the first match in Germany and were rather unlucky to lose by such a considerable margin but they were up for the challenge and weren't going down without a fight. They put on a convincing display, holding 60% of the possession throughout the match and creating some promising chances. They got a lucky own goal late in the second half which then prompted a fabulous header from Arango eight minutes later to put Gladbach level on aggregate but still in need of another away goal. Unfortunately for the German side, who are considered newcomers after their club's lengthy absence from Champions League football, were unable to hold off Kyiv's strike force and conceded a costly goal just as it looked as though they were going to stage their comebacks.
Both sides will now drop to the Europa League and will be drawn against their opponents after the final phases of Europa League qualification are played out. The teams who advanced in their fixtures this week will now be placed in the group stage, where the European top dogs have been seeded and wait to see who they will face up against in the UEFA Champions League.