Chelsea reached the last 16 of the Champions League despite going down to a 1-0 defeat to Basel in Switzerland on Tuesday, Mohamed Salah scoring the only goal with just three minutes remaining.
Salah latched on to a long ball forward by Fabian Schaer and outpaced Branislav Ivanovic as he cut in from the left before finishing past Petr Cech to hand the hosts a thoroughly deserved victory and keep their hopes alive, of joining Chelsea in the Last 16, heading into the final round of matches.
It was Basel’s second win against the Premier League club in this season’s competition and propelled them into second place in the group above Schalke 04, who only managed a goalless draw away to Steaua Bucharest in the night’s other match.
That result was good news for Chelsea too, as they are now certain to take one of the top two spots in the group.
However, they still have work to do if they are to clinch first place, with a home game against Steaua still to come, and manager Jose Mourinho will be deeply disappointed with what was a flat display by his side, three days after they had thumped West Ham United 3-0 away in the Premier League.
Perhaps Mourinho’s decision not to rotate his squad meant they also lacked freshness, as the Blues produced a lacklustre performance in the opening half of a game played in sub-zero temperatures.
Chelsea’s first half was summed up when Eto’o was stretchered off following an innocuous-looking challenge with Serey Die during a rare foray forward, and Torres took his place.
There was a feeling that Chelsea had been let off the hook as they went in at the interval on level terms, and their defence was rarely troubled after the restart, with the exception of a Serey Die volley that flashed just wide after a poor clearance by John Terry.
They also looked brighter going forward once Hazard had come on in place of the ineffective Oscar but, remarkably, Basel ‘keeper Yann Sommer did not have a save of note to make all evening.
And Basel finally got the breakthrough they merited with three minutes left when Salah – who scored in their 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in September – sent the St Jakob-Park crowd into raptures.