FC Basel have drawn 1-1 with the English Premier League side, Aston Villa, in the first leg of the Intertoto Cup final. It was a closely fought match with FC Basel putting up a strong performance against the English favourites.
The game got off to a feisty start with Basel's Hakan Yakin breaking away from the pack after a great pass from his brother Murat. The Swiss international shot powerfully with his left foot but Villa's reserve keeper Peter Enckelman, deputising for the injured Peter Schmeichel, saved well.
Basel continued to press forward and were rewarded with another opportunity when summer signing Christian Giminez narrowly missed out after an exquisite through ball from Jean-Michel Tchouga. The Argentinian managed to put the ball past Enckelman only to see his effort shave the right hand goalpost.
Aston Villa fought back in the sixteenth minute with Villa's Hadji coming close to beating Pascal Zuberbühler with a speedy shot that somehow went wide from just a few metres out.
Despite that energetic start, the 26,000 strong crowd at Basel's new St Jakob's Park stadium were left waiting for goals until well into the second half.
The first one came from Villa with the English player, Paul Merson, finally beating Zuberbühler. A low ball in was parried away by the Basel keeper but Merson was first to the rebound, firing in from short range.
The lead was short-lived though with Gimenez equalising in the 75th minute. The goal was strikingly similar to Villa's opener, with the Basel forward turning the ball into the net after seeing a powerful shot from Carlos Varela deflected into his path by Enckelman.
The equaliser keeps alive Basel's hopes of a place in the UEFA Cup, but Christian Gross's men will now have to score at least once to cancel out Villa's away goal when the two teams meet again in Birmingham in two weeks time.
swissinfo with agencies