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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Porto dealt injury blow ahead of Basel match

FC Porto come into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Swiss football champions Basel on Tuesday with the upper hand but with serious concerns over the fitness of their leading scorer.

Porto dealt injury blow ahead of Basel match
Estádio do Dragão, Porto's home stadium. Photo: Edgar Jiménez

The Portuguese club have the edge in the tie after a 1-1 draw in Switzerland in the first leg last month but were dealt a potentially serious blow when Jackson Martinez came off with a thigh injury in Friday's 1-0 win at Braga that could keep him out for up to three weeks.
   
The Colombian star has scored 17 goals in the Portuguese league this season and six times on Porto's run in the Champions League, so it is little wonder that the Dragons are sweating on his fitness.
   
"We are talking about a player who is mentioned for his goals but he is about so much more than that. He is an example to everyone for his character and his professionalism," said coach Julen Lopetegui, who has Cameroon forward Vincent Aboubakar waiting in the wings after he came off the bench against Braga.
   
"If he came off it wasn't for nothing," Lopetegu saidi.

"The squad needs to be ready and Aboubakar gave a good response."

However, Porto's outstanding performer in recent weeks has been the Spanish winger Cristian Tello, who got the winner at Braga after netting a hat-trick in the previous week's defeat of Sporting Lisbon.
   
The two-time European champions are aiming to return to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2009, when they were eliminated by a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United.
   
Porto came from behind to draw with Basel at the St Jakob-Park as a Danilo penalty cancelled out Derlis Gonzalez's opener for the Swiss side.
   
The match will be a special occasion for Basel's Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa, who came up against Porto as a player for Lisbon giants Benfica and Sporting.
   
He is hoping to lead Basel into the last eight in Europe's elite club competition for just the second time, with their previous appearance ending in a 6-5 aggregate loss to Celtic in 1974.
   
Basel are without the suspended Marek Suchy but their man to watch should be striker Shkelzen Gashi, who is the top scorer in the Swiss league with 16 goals, including a brace in the 3-0 weekend win against FC Thun.

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FOOTBALL

Basel shock Manchester United with late winner

Manchester United were forced to wait to book a place in the Champions League last 16 as Michael Lang's last-gasp strike gave Basel a shock 1-0 win at St Jakob-Park on Wednesday.

Basel shock Manchester United with late winner
St-Jakob-Park. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Jose Mourinho's side were moments away from securing top spot in Group A when Lang pounced on sloppy defending to steal the points for second-placed Basel a minute before the end.
   
United hit the woodwork twice in a dominant first half, but they were outplayed after the interval and could have few complaints about Lang's dramatic winner.
   
United remain in first place and they just need to avoid losing by more than six goals at home to CSKA Moscow — three points behind Mourinho's men on nine and level with Basel — in their last fixture on December 5th to ensure their progress to the knockout stages.
   
Basel are also in the hunt heading into their last group game against Benfica, in which they just need to equal CSKA's result to qualify.
   
Mourinho will be especially frustrated by the defeat because it means he cannot afford to rest players against CSKA, just days before the Manchester derby.
   
“We lost because in the first half we should be 5-0 up but we could not score one goal after being so dominant,” Mourinho said.
   
“It looks for many periods in the first half it was impossible not to win.
   
“I think the majority of the second half the feeling of everyone was OK, it will be 0-0, but they got the late goal.”
   
Mourinho made seven changes from the team that beat Newcastle 4-1 at the weekend, with Argentine defender Marcos Rojo making his first appearance since a suffering cruciate ligament injury in April.
   
Mourinho had expressed concern about the pitch at St Jakob-Park after it was replaced following heavy damage during Switzerland's recent World Cup play-off with Northern Ireland.
   
However, United didn't seem bothered when they pieced together a sweeping move that almost brought an early opening goal.
   
Paul Pogba sliced through the Basel defence and found Romelu Lukaku, whose shot on the turn was well saved by Tomas Vaclik.
   
Moments later, the visitors went even closer when Marouane Fellaini's header was cleared off the line by Manuel Akanji.
   
Fellaini threatened again with another header that fizzed wide from Daley Blind's free-kick.
 
Penned back
 
United were dominating possession without applying the finishing touch and Fellaini maintained that frustrating trend when the Belgian hit the post with a close-range header from Anthony Martial's cross.
   
Martial was denied by Vaclik at the end of a surging run before Rojo rattled the bar from long-range.
   
Having been penned back in the first half, Basel almost snatched the lead after the interval when Serey Die drilled just wide.
   
Suddenly unable to find any rhythm, United rode their luck again as Renato Steffen's powerful effort was narrowly off-target.
   
Mourinho sent on Nemanja Matic and Marcus Rashford, but United didn't respond and Lang nearly made them pay by crashing a header against the bar.
   
That escape was the signal for United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come on in the 74th minute, for the second appearance since his return from a serious knee injury.
   
Die tried to steal the spotlight from the Swede with a 25-yard strike that drew a good stop from Sergio Romero.
   
Even Ibrahimovic couldn't help United stem the tide and Basel's pressure was finally rewarded in the 89th minute.
   
With United appealing in vain for offside, Raoul Petretta's measured pass found Lang and he tapped in at the far post to leave Mourinho cursing.