Taulant Xhaka’s stunning solo strike set the tone for Basel to claim their first victory in ten Champions League away fixtures in style as they saw off CSKA Moscow 2-0.
The combative Xhaka put in a sparkling display at the heart of Basel’s midfield, capping off his performance with a brilliant effort 29 minutes into Wednesday’s clash at VEB Arena.
Raphael Wicky’s men were the better side throughout, and were denied a second goal following the restart when Albian Ajeti was harshly adjudged to have strayed offside.
Mario Fernandes should have made the Swiss Super League champions pay for their misfortune when he headed over from close range, but Basel substitute Dimitri Oberlin put the game beyond all doubt.
Having missed a glut of gilt-edged chances, the youngster eventually kept his composure to slot in his third Champions League goal in as many appearances.
Basel’s victory lifts them onto six points, three behind Group A leaders Manchester United, and a victory against CSKA on home soil on October 31 would put them in pole position to progress to the knockout stages for the first time in three seasons.
Buoyed by their rampant victory over Benfica on matchday two, Basel started on the front foot, though they were almost behind when Vitinho tried his luck with a dipping free-kick.
That was the closest either side would come in a sluggish opening, until Xhaka took matters into his own hands.
Having latched onto a loose ball in the centre circle, the Albania midfielder surged forward before dispatching a thumping finish into the bottom-right corner with unerring accuracy.
Xhaka nearly replicated his goal soon after, but this time CKSA veteran Igor Akinfeev got down sharply to parry it wide.
Akinfeev came to CSKA’s rescue again as the interval approached – tipping Michael Lang’s venomous volley away from danger.
CSKA’s goalkeeper was beaten again seven minutes into the second half when Ajeti lashed home from close-range, only for referee Bjorn Kuipers to reverse his decision to award the goal after consulting with the linesman.
Basel’s frustration could have been compounded moments later, Aleksandr Golovin sending a long-range effort narrowly over.
Oberlin’s pace caused havoc for CSKA’s ramshackle defence, though the youngster could not beat Akinfeev from point-blank range.
Fernandes was guilty of worse at the other end with 15 minutes remaining, however, as he headed onto the roof of an open net following poor goalkeeping from Tomas Vaclik.
Oberlin’s wasteful form in front of goal continued with two terrible misses in quick succession, but the 20-year-old added gloss to the win in the 90th minute with a calm finish as Basel made it three wins from three games against Russian opposition in Europe’s elite competition.