|Basel's Alex Frei ends his 647 minute goal drought|
Basel claim three vital points on a snow covered pitch in ZurichSince taking over a week ago for Heiko Vogel, former FC Basel and Swiss National Team player Murat Yakin was in dire need of a positive result. His first game in charge of the reigning champions ended in a 1-0 defeat to the side he coached to a second place position last season, a deserved result after a poor performance from Basel. His second game in charge took place at Videoton in the Europa League. This time around Basel were the better side but were unlucky to concede two goals early on and then even more unlucky to not be able to convert their multiple chances that followed into goals.
Despite some match delays in the Axpo Super League today, FC Basel and FC Zurich kicked off on time in a winter wonderland in the Letzigrund. FC Zurich were the first side to win a corner, but within six minutes the guests were 1-0 up, with a very in-form Fabian Schar netting a header off of an Alex Frei free kick. With the snow rapidly accumulating on the pitch, both teams adjusted quite well to the conditions on the field. Basel were able to create more chances, Valentin Stocker coming close with another header in the 12th minute. Headers and long, lofty shots would be the order of the day due to the snow, but Yann Sommer in the Basel goal was able to keep Zurich's long range efforts out of the back of his net.
In the 25th minute, FC Basel were awarded with a cluster of free kicks. The troubled Alex Frei, FC Basel's beloved veteran striker who had suffered a goal drought exceeding 640 minutes without hitting the back of the net, rose to the occasion, sending the ball into the back of the net to give Basel the 2-0 lead. At the half, Basel were clearly the better side. Two nice finishes from Schar and Frei and several close calls had earned them the 2-0 scoreline.
The second half was a different story. The home side came out swinging, dominating on the pitch with lots of long passes. FC Basel had trouble adjusting to the pitch conditions, finding it difficult to play a passing game with the snow and the high and fast pressure from FC Zurich. They were soon being out possessed with Yann Sommer seeing much more action than he had in the first half. Basel began conceding free kicks. Lucky for them, the home side were having trouble finishing and getting their efforts on target. Basel's highly organized and efficient defense was top class as Zurich possessed in their third of the pitch and sent crosses high, low, short and long across the box.
Much of the attack from both sides were long balls. With the snow in the middle of the field it was easier to play box-to-box as the pitch had been cleared in the eighteen yard boxes at the halftime break. Da Costa had a relatively quiet half, many of the saves he was forced to make were slow, low balls or lofty crosses out of the air. He nearly spilled a save in the 52nd minute when Valentin Stocker connected with the ball to send a powerful volley towards the Zurich goal but Da Costa scrambled to redirect the ball past his post.
In the 73rd minute Aleksandar Dragovic landed awkwardly on his knee, being forced to make way for Gaston Sauro. Basel's modified defensive line held up despite Zurich's relentless attack until just five minutes from the end of regulation time. Sauro tripped up Mariani just inside Basel's penalty area, an unnecessary foul considering Zurich's inability to convert good attacks into good finishes. Garvanovic stepped up to take the kick, sending Sommer the wrong way and slamming the ball home to deny Basel the clean sheet.
In an intense four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the full 90, Zurich came painfully close to equalizing. Fabian Schar surely secured himself the Man of the Match title when he made a magnificent, body contorting header to clear the ball from the front of his side's open net with an FC Zurich player right on his back. Sommer was awarded with a foul after another goal line scramble just seconds later and Basel were able to hold on for the much-needed victory and the first under their new manager.