1 assist, 7 interceptions: How this Basel star kept Chelsea at arm’s length
Basel’s 1-0 win over Chelsea on Tuesday night ensured that the Swiss side’s hopes of advancing to the Champions League knockout stages would live on, thanks in large part to the displays of certain stars.
Fabian Schar can be counted among that contingent after the centre-back’s astute outing St. Jakob Park helped tie up a memorable Basel double against the reigning Europa League champions.
By no means was it a pristine display from the 21-year-old, who dealt with the whirlwind of pressure thrust upon him and simply pushed back in more than equal measure. On the night, Schar made six interceptions for the Basle hosts, twice the amount that any other player managed to amass.
This coupled with his six clearances made and two successful tackle attempts from three show just how involved the youngster was up against formidable opposition, thriving nonetheless.
While centre-back partner Ivan Ivanov did so for the other side, Schar was regularly pulled out to the right flank in order to go about his work, covering much ground and helping Kay Voser out with his share of the defensive load.
It’s that understanding with his central squadmate that lent itself well to the home team when facing the Chelsea attack, Samuel Eto’o, Willian and Oscar finding it near impossible to break up those lines of communication.
It was much the same story at Stamford Bridge back in September, where the youngster was again a defensive force and made an impressive 11 defensive actions for his side along with another five tackles, not failing in any of his attempts.
What did suffer was Schar’s passing, however, as many a long ball attempt went unfound by those ahead of him and the shorter game between himself and fellow defenders predictably bearing more fruit.
One of those long balls that did squeeze itself through, though, will of course go down as the one remembered most, Schar’s probing pass up to Mohamed Salah eventually being finished off by the Egyptian with just four minutes left in normal time.
Despite this one moment of magic, however, the real adoration is owed to Schar’s less glamorous work. This Champions League season, the Swiss international has been a defensive rock and won 16 of his 18 attempted tackles, albeit committing 15 fouls in the process.
Chelsea were simply the latest side to become frustrated with the flood of rejections created as a result of the centre-back’s presence and, just a few minutes from full time, were made to pay for their indiscretion.
With another fine performance against the Blues, Schar will undoubtedly have pricked up a few ears for the confident manner in which he plays, especially for one so young.