Handy Andy’s spanner sparks Basel makeover

FC Basel produced a stunning comeback in the first leg of their Europa Conference League (UECL) semi-final, as they beat Fiorentina 2-1 in Italy. Andy Diouf’s superb solo goal set the Swiss side on their way to a famous win, leaving them within touching distance of a first ever European final.

La Viola were expected to dominate from the outset, but it was their visitors who had the best of the early chances, with Jean-Kévin Augustin even finding the back of the net early on, only for the strike to be ruled out for a marginal offside. Pietro Terracciano then pulled off a terrific full-stretch save to prevent Diouf from finding the bottom corner, while Wouter Burger headed wide.

Eventually, Basel were made to pay for those missed opportunities as an unmarked Arthur Cabral bagged against his former club, registering a new outright-high seventh UECL goal of the season by converting from close range. Despite enjoying 62% of the possession in the first half, that was only Fiorentina’s second shot on target, as they struggled to create many meaningful openings against a belligerent Basel defence.

Things were much more even after the break, and Heiko Vogel’s side should have equalised when Burger nodded wide with a huge chance from a corner. Rolando Mandragora and Jonathan Ikoné then fired over at the other end, as both teams struggled to land shots on target until a tame effort from Mandragora from the edge of the box was easily saved.

Basel levelled with 20 minutes left when Diouf netted a screamer, playing a quick one-two before racing past several defenders en-route from the halfway line before converting with a low shot from the edge of the area. And Zeki Amdouni made it 2-1 deep into added time, as he found the back of the net from close range after Fiorentina failed to deal with a ball into the box.

The result means the Swiss side have one leg in a dream final nobody ever game them a prayer of reaching, a decade after suffering semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Chelsea in the Europa League.

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