There’s very much a Liverpool theme this week featuring two former Anfield defenders and a youngster on loan at Luzern hoping to recapture his best form after being plagued with injury. We also look at how their Europa League opponents Sion got on.
Grasshopper 1-1 St. Gallen
FC Basel 3-1 FC Lugano
FC Sion 0-1 FC Vaduz
FC Thun 0-1 Young Boys
FC Luzern 1-0 FC Zürich
Before the clash between Luzern and FCZ, opposing managers Markus Babbel and Sami Hyypiä recalled a frightening incident fifteen years ago when two gunmen came into the restaurant they were eating in. Everyone dived for cover underneath the table except Babbel, who soon came to his senses. Thankfully the players emerged unharmed. It was the kind of experience that forms a bond between two people that endures to the present day.
As noted by Hyypiä afterwards, Zürich were sluggish from the start although it took until the second half for Luzern to capitalise. Samed Yesil, once one of the most talked about young strikers in Europe, scored a real striker’s goal which would settle the game. His first touch took him away from the defender and he blasted the ball home with confidence inside the six-yard box – not a bad way to replace the suspended Super League top scorer Dario Lezcano.
By the time Zürich woke up in the final fifteen minutes, they should have been further behind. Philippe Koch spoke beforehand of the need to give Hyypiä the first win of his tenure but the attacking leftback was guilty of missing a sitter. In the end, Luzern were deserved winners having shown the greater intent to win the game throughout. Zürich’s struggles continue and they are very much in a relegation battle as it stands while Luzern can threaten second if their home form (this was their first win) matches their exploits on the road.
FC Sion‘s owner Christian Constantin has been in the news this weekend with his plans to buy an oil refinery and turn it into a hub for renewable energy. On the pitch, his side warmed up for their trip to Anfield with a home defeat to struggling FC Vaduz, who played almost half the game with ten men. Despite the threat of Sion’s Mujangi Bia, the Liechtensteiners were the better side in the first half and adopted a refreshingly positive approach from the outset. Vaduz lost Philipp Muntweiler to a straight red for a shin-high studs-up challenge on Carlitos but held firm against Sion who never convinced even with a man advantage. The winner came fifteen minutes from time when Markus Neumayr sucked in three defenders and put the goal on a plate for Kukuruzovic who gobbled up the chance from seven yards.
FC Basel responded to their midweek defeat with a win but they made hard work of their victory over bottom side Lugano who struck the woodwork at 0-0 courtesy of the lively Bottani. Luca Zuffi celebrated his new contract by opening the scoring ; his shot from range finding its way into the net in no small part due to some haphazard goalkeeping. Zuffi’s second involved no luck coming from a sweetly-struck left-footed drive that arrowed into the bottom corner. With a plethora of injuries affecting die Nati, Vladimir Petkovic could do a lot worse than call the ex-Thun man up for his first cap.
The well-travelled Birkir Bjarnason scored his first for Basel in style with a neat individual effort to make it three. In spite of 9 wins in 10 games, Basel have kept just two clean sheets. Antonio Culina scored with the last kick of the game after a good one-two with Bottani to provide some consolation for Zdenek Zeman’s side. Basel have already won in Florence and will fancy another win in the Europa League as they host Lech Poznan on Thursday.
Young Boys took the bragging rights in the Bern derby as they won 0-1 in Thun and the game was ultimately decided early on. Renato Streffen, who is public enemy #1 in Basel for his part in Taulent Xhaka’s red card in midweek, got the better of Thun ‘keeper from range with a cross-come-shot, helped by Yuya Kubo threatening to get a touch but without success. YB boss Adi Hütter has enjoyed a successful start since taking over and he will be indebted to his goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo who produced another sterling display to keep a resurgent Thun at bay.
Rumours that Filippo Inzaghi has come out of retirement to play for Grasshopper are wide of the mark despite three goals disallowed for offside in their game with St. Gallen. The hosts did eventually break the deadlock eight minutes into the second half when Kim Källström helped on a corner and Shani Tarashaj couldn’t miss his header from point-blank range. Källström went close with a free kick but St. Gallen took home a point courtesy of the Luxembourger Mario Mutsch who stooped to head home Steven Lang’s cross at the far post.