Basel back on track, Admira stretch lead
After a three-week break encompassing the final group fixtures in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2012, hostilities resumed at the weekend in the Swiss Super League and Austrian Bundesliga. FC Basel’s recovery gained pace in Switzerland, while promoted Trenkwalder Admira extended their advantage at the summit in Austria. FIFA.com reviews the latest action in the Alpine leagues.
Basel edge out Zurich
FC Zurich and FC Basel approached one of the classic fixtures in Swiss league football from totally contrasting perspectives. Champions Basel were in domestic action for the first time under new coach Heiko Vogel, who took the helm last week after the hurried departure of Thorsten Fink to German Bundesliga giants Hamburg. Vogel’s maiden appearance in the dugout, a midweek UEFA Champions League group clash with Benfica, ended in FCB’s first defeat in the competition, so the men from Basel were set on an immediate return to the winning ways of Fink’s last few weeks in charge. Zurich, in contrast, have not been closely associated with ‘winning ways’ this term: Urs Fischer’s men went into the match in a lowly eighth place with just ten points so far. For entirely different reasons, both teams were desperate for a decent result on Matchday 12.
At it transpired, it was Basel who came away with the points from a hard-fought encounter at the venerable Letzigrund in Zurich, winning 1-0 and advancing to third in the standings. Xherdan Shaqiri netted a 55th-minute free-kick to hand the visitors the lead, and it proved the match-winning goal after Amine Chermiti blasted a 75th-minute penalty for the home side high into the crowd. Vogel opted to rest top scorer Alexander Frei, who watched the entire match from the bench. "FCZ were just as tough as we expected, so it was very hard going for us. At the end of the day, we’ve proved we’re capable of fighting right to the final whistle, when the objective is to preserve a narrow lead through to the end," Vogel was quoted as saying on the FCB homepage.
Below-par Lucerne, lively Grasshoppers
Elsewhere, leaders Lucerne were left looking anxiously over their shoulders after a second defeat on the bounce, as the high-flyers disappointed their home faithful with a 2-1 defeat to Neuchatel Xamax. Lucerne are now only a point clear of Sion and two ahead of Basel.
Struggling Grasshoppers Zurich earned some breathing space with a 1-0 victory away to Young Boys Berne, a result which takes coach Ciriaco Sforza’s side level on points with city rivals FCZ. Orhan Mustafi fired the match-winning goal after 64 minutes. Lausanne Sport also ended a long drought with a victory over Thun. The promoted side last earned maximum points in the third round of matches.
Lausanne Sport 1–0 Thun
Lucerne 1–2 Neuchatel Xamax
Servette Geneva 0–2 Sion
Young Boys Berne 0–1 Grasshopper Club Zurich
FC Zurich 0–1 Basel
Top three: Lucerne (24 points), Sion (23), Basel (22)
Trenkwalder Admira march on
Trenkwalder Admira maintained their remarkable form in Austria and moved further clear at the top of the standings after 12 matches. The club from the industrial belt some 15km south of Vienna beat Wacker Innsbruck 3-2, twice coming from behind in a furious last quarter of the game. Carlos Merino handed visiting Innsbruck a 66th-minute lead, but Patrik Jezek levelled just two minutes later. Dario Dakovic appeared to have earned Wacker the points with a 77th-minute strike, but Christopher Dibon and Jezek netted twice in the last two minutes to seal the promoted club’s seventh win of the campaign.
"We scored in stoppage time so it was a lucky win, albeit one that was utterly deserved. We should have wrapped it up in the first half. These are the wins you enjoy the most, because a few people will have been thinking our run had come to an end. It's unbelievable, my lads never give up," Admira coach Dietmar Kuhbauer enthused afterwards.
Derby draw in Vienna
The 299th Vienna derby between Austria and Rapid finished with the honours even at 1-1, the first time the bitter rivals have shared the spoils since a previous 1-1 stalemate on 30 August 2009. Austria remain second in the table on 21 points, but are now four points off the leaders. There was also a setback for Red Bull Salzburg, who were defeated 2-1 by champions Sturm Graz and now find themselves six points adrift of Trenkwalder Admira.
At the wrong end of the table, Wiener Neustadt did their cause a power of good with a 2-0 victory over bottom club Kapfenberg, thereby leapfrogging Wacker Innsbruck to go eighth.
Ried 2–0 Mattersburg
Wiener Neustadt 2–0 Kapfenberg
Trenkwalder Admira 3–2 Wacker Innsbruck
Austria Vienna 1–1 Rapid Vienna
Sturm Graz 2–1 RB Salzburg
Top three: Trenkwalder Admira (25 points), Austria Vienna (21), RB Salzburg (19)