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2016/17 UEFA Champions League, Group Stage
  • Renato Steffen (80')
  • Jonathan Cafú (45')

Basel fight back to secure draw in Champions League opener

Basel fought back to secure a 1-1 draw in their Champions League Group A opener against Ludogorets at St Jakob-Park.

Jonathan Cafu fired the Bulgarians ahead on the stroke of half-time.

However, Basel, who had won eight games from eight so far this season and are already nine points clear of nearest rivals Young Boys in the Swiss top flight, produced a strong second-half showing and were rewarded with 10 minutes left when Renato Steffen hooked the ball in at the far post.

With these two sides expected to contest third place behind experienced European campaigners Paris St Germain and Arsenal, neither could really afford to lose early ground with defeat in the opening group games.

The plans of Basel coach Urs Fischer, though, were forced to change when striker Marc Janko was forced off on 39 minutes because of injury. He was replaced by Seydou Doumbia, the Ivory Coast forward on loan from Roma.

Ludogorets, currently fourth in the Bulgarian top flight, silenced the home support when they took the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Marcelinho played a ball up field down the right, which Cafu collected before turning defender Marek Suchy to break clear into the penalty area.

The Brazilian then coolly slotted a low shot into the bottom left corner past goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

Basel, though, regrouped at the interval and were soon on the offensive in the second half as Doumbia went close before Suchy fired over.

Despite being vulnerable to the counter-attack, the hosts continued to push forward, surged on by the local support.

The Swiss were rewarded with an equaliser on 80 minutes.

Birkir Bjarnason got away down the right and sent over a deep cross, which Vladislav Stoyanov failed to deal with and pushed behind him towards the back of the six-yard box.

Steffen, making his Champions League debut, remained composed to hook an angled effort back towards goal, which went into the net past the defender on the line.

The St Jakob-Park faithful demanded a winner, but Ludogorets closed out the final stages, as a long-range effort from Davide Calla was saved.

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