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Rovers 3 Basel 0 Uefa Cup


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Match Report by Scotty.

Hands up who saw that result coming half way through the second half? An unbelieveable result in the end from a game where Rovers were second best for large parts. Still, do I care? God no.

There was some good team news before the game - Savage, Nonda and Pedersen were all fit and named in the starting 11 - only Emerton was missing from our usual first-choice team. However, on a bitterly cold night the Rovers just didn't get started. Basle were quicker, stronger and hungrier than us, and they displayed a much higher level of technical and passing ability. They attacked us from the off and soon started to create chances - thankfully their finishing was awful throughout the match. One notable chance, a point-blank header from the edge of the six-yard box, brought a miraculous save from Friedel. Most of Basel's other attempts though (and there were plenty of them) were blocked or off target.

Basel played with a very deep-lying central midfielder who almost became a fifth centre-half when we had the ball. This allowed them to track either Nonda or McCarthy when they attempted to come short and link play, meaning that we couldn't hold the ball up front and lacked options in midfield. As a result our passing was awful and we constantly gave the ball away. Then we were a yard off the pace when Basle had the ball and didn't work hard enough to get it back.

Towards the end of the half though we did manage to create a couple of chances, both Pedersen and Bentley had efforts that they should have done better with, but overall we were lucky to go in at half-time level. The other notable event in the first half was the injury to Savage (replaced by Mokoena). Let's hope it's not serious because we're looking pretty short in central midfield if it is.

We started the second half much brighter and attacked from the off. Nonda (I think) missed a glorious chance from a Neill cross, heading weakly straight at the keeper when it seemed easier to score. We also won a few corners and free-kicks and generally looked like we'd decided to play at last. Our domination was only temporary though as the pattern of the first half started to emerge after around 15 minutes. Basle always looked a threat when they attacked and, yet again, they spurned several shooting opportunites through some rank bad finishing. They also had a great free-kick well saved by Friedel, and headed the subsequent rebound wide when it really should have been on-target at least.

I'd just started to settle for point, maybe hope for a point was more accurate, when Tugay produced a moment of complete magic out of nowhere. He controlled a difficult ball, turned his marker expertly, advanced a few yards, and floated an absolutely magestic shot into the top corner of the net from about 30 yards. The Basle keeper just stood and watched. A moment of true quality that was a mile above anything we had produced in the match so far.

Hughes then decided to bring on some fresh legs, replacing Tugay and Nonda with Gallagher and Jeffers. Just as an aside, Tugay also stormed ahead in Rovers' "longest time to walk off when subbed" competition, easily beating McCarthy's valient effort in Salzburg. The confidence of a goal plus the fresh legs gave us an impetus that had been missing for most of the night, and suddenly we were all over Basle. In the last ten minutes we won a penalty that Jeffers blasted into the middle of the goal and, late on, McCarthy tucked in a rebound from a useful Gallagher shot.

3-0 it finished and Basle must be shaking their heads wondering how on earth that happened.

Friedel pulled off a couple of great saves and kept us in the match. Our two central defenders flatter to deceive. They are good on the ball, make the odd decent interception, and Ooijer in particular is pretty good in the air, yet they continue to allow opposition players time and space and gift them chances. With better finishing, heck with just normal finishing, Basle could easily have got 4 or 5 goals today. Our two full backs were poor, Neill in particular didn't look his usual attacking threat (possibly carrying a knock?). Gray at least tried to get forward and influence play, but all too often he just gave the ball away. He was better than he was at West Ham though.

We were overrun in midfield for large parts of the first half but competed better in the second. Tugay was the only player who seemed able to pass the ball to another Rovers player earlier on, and, of course, he deserved to win the man of the match award for his goal alone. Savage was injured mid-way through the first half and Mokoena showed again that he lacks the passing ability to play in a 4-4-2. Pedersen was poor in the first half (as were the whole team to be fair) but played much better in the second. Bentley did ok without ever really excelling.

Up front our forwards were shackled well by Basle. Nonda was poor though, again I wonder if he was really fit, and could have been subbed much earlier than he was. McCarthy at least showed the odd flash of quality and he was in the right place at the right time to score at the death.

We were second best for the most part today and got lucky with the result, but there have been plenty of games when we've played well and not got what we deserved (Bolton most recently) so I'm not going to begrudge the win. Spare a thought though for the 100 or so Basle fans that made the trip to Ewood. They must be completely shell-shocked by what they saw and it'll be a long journey home for them.

Still, we're in a great position in the group now. I think we've already done enough to qualify, it would take a remarkable set of results now for us to miss out, but it's important we try to top the group. I suspect the Nancy home game may decide whether we do that or not. But, whatever the outcome of that match, it looks like our European adventure is going to carry on into next year. I can't wait.

Mark Hughespost match comment:

"We had to show patience and in the second half we kept probing, trying to draw them out.

"It was a fantastic goal from Tugay, he's playing exceptionally well this year, and from that point we were never going to lose it.

"We deserved the win, it was a really professional European performance."

Rovers: Friedel, Neill, Ooijer, Khizanishvili, Gray, Bentley, Savage (Mokoena 38), Tugay (Gallagher 84), Pedersen, Nonda (Jeffers 83), McCarthy.

Subs Not Used: Brown, McEveley, Derbyshire, Peter.

Booked: Gray, Mokoena.

Goals: Tugay 75, Jeffers 89 pen, McCarthy 90.

Basel: Costanzo, Zanni, Majstorovic, Ba, Chipperfield, Rakitic (Cristiano 55), Kuzmanovic, Sterjovski, Eduardo (Buckley 64), Ergic, Petric.

Subs Not Used: Crayton, Nakata, Burgmeier, Berner, Kavelashvili.

Booked: Kuzmanovic, Costanzo.

Att: 13,789

Ref: Oleh Oriekhov (Ukraine).

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