"Dangerous" was how Jose Mourinho described Basel before kick-off. Those words proved prophetic in Switzerland on Tuesday night but the harm to Chelsea was still self-inflicted in painfully cautious tactics.
Having suffered a shock defeat by the Swiss top-flight leaders at Stamford Bridge on Matchday One, Mourinho seemingly appeared intent on ensuring there would be no repeat at St Jakob Park. The Special One shut up shop in search of the point which would have guaranteed his club were not relying on results elsewhere.
But although a defeated Chelsea still qualified for the Champions League's last 16 in unspectacular style, courtesy of Steaua Bucharest and Schalke drawing 0-0 in Group E's other game, they consequently delivered a dreadful performance in which they incredibly did not manage a single shot on target.
Basel, who lost to Chelsea in last season's Europa League semi-finals, won the game through the familiar figure of the impressive Mohamed Salah's 87th minute counter-attacking winner and it was no more than the home team deserved - despite the excellent Petr Cech. However, questions should be asked of Mourinho's decisions in the wake of a game when his side were so ineffective.
Willian replaced Eden Hazard in the solitary change for Chelsea. Mourinho stuck with 10 of the players who began Saturday's 3-0 Premier League win at West Ham United, with Hazard on the substitutes' bench alongside a fit-again Fernando Torres. The formation appeared to be designed as 4-3-3 but resembled more like 4-5-1 on a night of negativity.
Murat Yakin's Basel included the defence-minded Mohamed Elneny ahead of Giovanni Sio while defensive midfielder Serey Die was playing in the back four of defence despite suffering a foot injury at the weekend. But the home side still showed almost endless attacking intent.
Story of the match
Goalkeeper Petr Cech, on the night of his 450th appearance for Chelsea, looked like he was going to be the key man. In the first half alone, he made three saves as Basel dominated. Cech also ended the game having had to make five saves.
It underlined what has been an excellent season for the Czech in the Champions League. Of the goalkeepers in the competition to have played all five games, he has the best save percentage rate (84.2 per cent) at the same time as keeping three clean sheets, making eight catches and having failed to drop the ball once.
|Player||Petr Cech||Iker Casillas||Salvatore Sirigu||Fraser Forster||Jose Reina|
|Team||Chelsea||Real Madrid||Paris Saint Germain||Celtic||Napoli|
|Minutes On Pitch||450||285||360||450||450|
|Minutes per Goal Conceded||150||95||180||56||50|
|Saves per game||3.2||4.8||3.5||3.8||3.8|
|Saves to Shots ratio||84%||86%||88%||70%||68%|
Basel were the attacking threat throughout the game and particularly in the first half, when they enjoyed a 58.3 % dominance of possession, stacked up seven corners and attempted nine shots. Salah, receiving passes inside left-back Cesar Azpilicueta, had been a constant menace and created two chances in the opening 45 minutes while also having two shots on target.
In contrast, Chelsea did not attempt a single shot, on or off target, in the first half. Samuel Eto'o had only 13 touches of the ball in that time, fewer than any other player on the pitch. That was because Chelsea failed to get the necessary service to their lone frontman, with Oscar (seven) and Willian (eight) attempting a disappointing amount of passes in the opposition half at poor respective completion rates of just 71.4% and 62.5%.
That Chelsea's most frequent first-half pass completion, which happened on just eight occasions, were the simple passes between holding midfielder John Obi Mikel, who had to make a goalline clearance before the interval, and right-back Branislav Ivanovic told the tale of a performance which had offered nothing as an attacking threat.
Eto'o went off on a stretcher to be replaced by the returning Torres before half-time while Hazard came on for the poor Oscar prior to the hour mark in attacking moves from Mourinho, albeit one forced by injury. The introduction of Hazard did improve Chelsea, with the Belgian playing four more passes in the opposition half (16) than Oscar (12) had managed in almost 60 minutes.
With Hazard on the field, Chelsea played with more width and he was an important factor in ensuring his team had a greater share of possession (55.1%) in the second half. But Mourinho, strangely, still seemed intent on keeping the handbrake on. He had clearly ordered Oscar and Willian from kick-off to close the space in the centre of midfield and neither player is suited to such a role.
That Chelsea finished the match without a shot on target was staggering. It was also only the second time they had failed to score in their last 24 Champions League games, with the previous occasion coming against the mighty Juventus in November 2012. It was therefore little surprise that Basel grabbed the win. It was a breakaway goal from Salah, who has now scored in each of the last three meetings between Chelsea and Basel in European competition, but it was a familiar route.
In a similar fashion to the manner in which Yakin's team had targeted passes inside Azpilicueta in the first half, this time Salah had switched flanks and the pass was launched down the inside flank of Chelsea right-back Ivanovic. Mourinho gestured furiously to his coaching staff that Ivanovic had been sleeping, and the defender was guilty of losing concentration. But it also seemed a classic attempt from a manager to attempt to distract from his own backfiring tactics.
"I did not like it from the first minute. We started with a defensive mistake immediately. The first time we were in the game, we made a defensive mistake. I think we only had a little bit of stability and control in second half but I felt the team was tired."
Glenn Hoddle's view
"Salah was excellent in the first half and kept getting in behind Azpilicueta. He was also excellent at Stamford Bridge and scored a wonderful goal to win that game. They had been hitting diagonals all game. Chelsea did go to sleep for the goal but it is a great finish. He shows composure to chip the ball over the goalkeeper."