Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ludogorets 0 Basel 0: Dour draw keeps third-place race alive

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 23 Nov 2016

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Ludogorets and Basel played out a turgid 0-0 draw in their penultimate Champions League Group A meeting in Sofia on Wednesday.

The two sides came into this clash knowing their chances of reaching the last 16 were long gone, with Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain dominating the group as expected.

With a point apiece to their name coming into this game – gained from a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in September – a win for either side would have sealed third place and a consolation spot in the Europa League in the new year.

But in the end, this drab goalless draw means Ludogorets head into matchday six with a slight advantage on that front, Georgi Dermendzhiev’s side boasting a superior head-to-head record courtesy of their away goal in Switzerland.

Ludogorets travel to PSG in their final group game knowing they only have to match the result of their Swiss rivals, who host Arsenal in their remaining fixture.

The Bulgarian side had prevailed 1-0 thanks to a stoppage-time winner when the two sides met in a corresponding group fixture two years ago, but there was to be no such late drama here as the game finished in much the same way it had begun.

A scrappy opening was devoid of any real fluency, the first shot on goal arriving in the 16th minute when a thumping half-volley from Basel’s Luca Zuffi was beaten away by Vladislav Stoyanov.

The first half was littered with fouls and, from one such indiscretion close to the Ludogorets byline, Matias Delgado whipped in a free-kick that Stoyanov punched away from under his crossbar.

Stoyanov was much the busier of the two goalkeepers and was called into action again just before half-time to smartly keep out Zuffi’s close-range volley.

Unfortunately for the watching supporters at a freezing Vasil Levski National Stadium, there was little to raise the pulse in the second period, either, with a lack of quality in the final third painfully evident.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest chance of the game arrived following a defensive error as Jose Luis Palomino’s dithering let in Mohamed Elyounoussi, who drilled a shot too close to Stoyanov with just under 15 minutes remaining.

Delgado saw a subsequent effort blocked behind as Basel finished the stronger, but they must now get something from Arsenal and rely on PSG doing them a favour if they are to extend their European campaign into 2017.

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