BASEL, Switzerland - Sporting wrapped up a successful Champions League group-stage campaign on Tuesday with a largely meaningless 1-0 away win over hapless Swiss champions FC Basel. Already guaranteed a place in the first knockout round after securing second place in Group C behind Barcelona, the Lisbon side grabbed the night's decisive goal with a well-worked effort from striker Yannick Djalo in the 19th minute. Djalo, who received his first senior call-up for Portugal in August, benefited from a neat, square pass from Marat Izmailov to prod the ball past Basel goalkeeper and captain Franco Costanzo from six metres out. Brazilian striker Derlei had wasted a free header from only a little further out a few minutes earlier as Sporting dominated the game's early exchanges. Basel, rooted to the bottom of Group C with one point from their previous five outings, came close to a freakish reply on the hour mark when Marco Caneira nearly diverted a hopeful Benjamin Huggel pass over his own goal-line. Substitute Valentin Stocker then drew an impressive close-range save from reserve Sporting keeper Tiago during a frantic final flurry from the home side in an increasingly heavy snowstorm. Afterwards, Basel coach Christian Gross refused to comment on speculation about his future at the club but said inexperience had been the main factor behind his team's disappointing run. "Today we were able to build up some pressure but we were unconvincing in the final third of the pitch -- particularly with set pieces," Gross told Swiss television. "This is a new team though which still has to grow together and we must not forget that they are competing here at the highest level."
9 December 2008
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