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Double delight for Basel

FC Basel's Herve Tum (right) gets the ball past Grasshopper goalie, Fabrice Borer

(Keystone)

FC Basel have won the Swiss league and cup double after beating arch-rivals Grasshoppers Zurich 2-1 in Sunday's Swiss Cup final.

It took until the 22nd minute of extra time for Basel to find the winner in what was an evenly-balanced and occasionally controversial match.

Playing in front of a highly partisan crowd at their own St Jakob stadium, the newly-crowned champions got off to a dream start when Cameroonian striker Hervé Tum opened the scoring with less than five minutes on the clock.

For the rest of the half though Grasshoppers gave as good as they got and found themselves back on level terms in the 38th minute when Swiss forward Mladen Petric headed in a perfectly weighted cross from Uruguayan star Richard Nuñez.

The first half was to end in controversy with Swiss international Murat Yakin appearing to put Basel back in front only for his effort to be ruled out for handball. The home supporters were far from impressed but television replays backed the referee and suggested even that the Basel captain was lucky to stay on the pitch.

Frayed nerves

Slippery conditions and increasingly taut nerves made the second half a much scrappier affair with both sets of forwards failing to make the best of the few chances offered.

Coming on as a substitute in his final appearance for Grasshoppers, veteran Swiss international Stéphane Chapuisat came close to grabbing the headlines with a skilful overhead kick but Basel goalie Pascal Zuberbühler somehow managed to smother the shot from close range.

Grasshoppers' frustration turned to agony just minutes later when a moment of calculated cynicism from team captain Boris Smiljanic literally handed Basel the victory.

With Grasshoppers keeper Fabrice Borer drawn off his line, Smiljanic found himself alone on the goal-line just as Basel forward Scott Chipperfield lobbed in a perfect ball for Tum. Faced with an almost certain goal for his opponents, Smiljanic deliberately punched the ball over the bar, conceding an inevitable penalty and red card along the way.

Having been denied the possible winner thanks to his own handball in the first half, Murat Yakin promptly stepped up to bury the ball in the back of the Grasshoppers net from the penalty spot.

With Grasshoppers unable to find a way back in the remaining eight minutes, it was soon party time once again for the people of Basel. Having waited 22 years for the league title and 27 years to lift the cup, Christian Gross's club have now grabbed both in a matter of days.

The double triumph also comes after a long wait. Basel's only previous league and cup brace came all the way back in 1967.

by Mark Ledsom, Basel


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