Bale injured and battered at home – yet it could have been worse

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As stoppage time ticked down it appeared that we’d endured a disappointing night that could’ve been a lot worse; and then it got a lot worse. Bale being stretchered from the pitch would’ve been bottom of most people’s lists of preferable outcomes, well below even a scoreline that accurately reflected the battering we took for much of the game – we couldn’t have complained at a heavy defeat.

We were lucky that Basel’s finishing didn’t match their speed or movement. They ran us ragged from the off with right midfielder Mohamed Salah in particular taking the opportunity to humiliate each of our side in turn with his pace, but thankfully not his shooting. You do wonder how much homework we’d done given that there was no obvious plan in place to cope with him or the 6ft 5in Streller.

We looked narrow, unbalanced and sloppy. They played with a high line (does anyone not these days?) and forced error after error out of our back four and midfield. Early injuries to Gallas and a match-terminating one to Lennon didn’t help as Villas-Boas attempted to tinker and provide the team with a solid foundation to build from but nothing, all night really, stopped Basel from attacking at will down our left hand side.

Technically and tactically we were exposed. At the end they were playing keep ball in front of their impressive support whilst we chased futilely, the resulting frustration at which led to Bale’s ill-fated challenge. The fear that we’ve tried to wring just too many performances from too many players is great. It’s too early to say just yet but after the runaround dealt out by the Swiss, it’s difficult not to think that our hopes for the season may have disappeared down the tunnel with the stretcher.

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