A second-half goal from Danny Murphy handed Fulham their first win of the UEFA Europa League group stage. Fulham certainly looked the brighter side over the course of the match, although Basel were skilful and competitive throughout forcing a number of dangerous situations.
Hoping to slow the early pace of the game down, Basel got the encounter under way looking to maintain possession. Certainly judging by the pace at which both teams attacked in the opening exchanges, Fulham looked the side with the greater cutting edge up front.
The Basel defence looked to be struggling up with link-up play of Johnson and Zamora, whilst Fulham’s defence, by comparison, was containing Alexander Frei and Streller with relative ease.
Basel came close to taking the lead when Frei saw his low shot fly just wide of Mark Schwarzer’s left hand post. Fulham soon upped the pace and Basel had a nervy couple of moments on the 15 minute mark when a Paul Konchesky free-kick was floated into the danger area, only to be headed over by Smalling.
Shortly following that opportunity, Andrew Johnson robbed Serkan Sahin and raced towards goal before shooting inches wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Basel midfield man, Benjamin Huggel, almost handed his side the lead midway through the first-half when, out of nowhere, he sent a fierce volley flying just over Mark Schwarzer’s bar. However, when presented with a far simpler chance moments later, a one-on-one with Schwarzer, Huggel scooped his effort over from eight yards. It was a big let-off for the Whites.
However, those chances did not change the underlying trend in the first-half, which was seeing the attacking momentum shift Fulham’s way. Danny Murphy fired a direct free-kick just over Costanzo’s crossbar on 35 minutes following clever play from Clint Dempsey on the edge of the penalty area.
The first-half came to a conclusion with Basel pushing hard in attack but through excellent defending from both Chris Baird and Chris Smalling; the game reached the interval goalless.
The second-half got off to a tentative start, with Fulham conscious of not conceding early. The fact that neither side was able to muster a shot on target by the 55th minute was a telling statistic. Clint Dempsey tried his luck on 56 minutes from outside the area but he saw his effort bounce just wide of the post.
Danny Murphy gave Fulham the lead in the 57th minute after good work from Andrew Johnson down the right flank. Johnson made good ground in the Basel penalty area before cutting the ball back for Murphy, whose late run afforded him the time to pick his spot and side-foot past Costanzo.
The goal seemed to unsettle the Basle side, their passing was not as fluid as it had been earlier in the encounter and they were looking less at ease with Fulham’s physical presence as the half progressed.
Johnson and Riise were finding plenty of space down the right flank and the away side were undoubtedly looking aware of their own vulnerability down that flank.
Following a lull in play, a burst of pace from Andrew Johnson to latch on to Bobby Zamora’s flick-on almost saw the Fulham striker go clean through on goal. Unfortunately he was denied at the crucial moment by a well-timed tackle.
A fine cross from Riise on 77 minutes drifted just in front of Zamora as, once again, the Whites were able to work their right flank with relative ease.
Basel closed out the match with four players up front as they looked for a way back into the game – throwing caution to the wind. Their change in approach was reaping rewards as they finished the stronger of the two sides, attacking with some real threat. Fortunately, they were unable to convert their possession into goals.