Middlesbrough's hopes of progressing into the last four of the Uefa Cup faded in the rain at St Jakob Park in Basle last night as the Swiss league leaders struck twice in two minutes to leave the Teessiders facing a massive task in the return leg of this quarter-final at the Riverside.
The Argentinian midfielder Matias Delgado, the tournament's leading goalscorer, and the young prospect David Degen did the damage for Basle with goals just before half-time as Boro failed to cope with their hosts' slick passing.
Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, again left the side's leading scorer, Aiyegbeni Yakubu - an unused substitute against Bolton at the weekend - on the bench, and paired Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka in attack. Chris Riggott returned after injury along with Gaizka Mendieta, Ray Parlour and the England hopeful Stewart Downing.
Mark Schwarzer was the busier goalkeeper in the opening stages, saving smartly from Boris Smiljanic and from Mile Sterjovski on the half-hour, before Basle's tricky winger Degen was booked for diving theatrically in the box after a challenge from Emmanuel Pogatetz. Boro's chances were scarce, Mendieta forcing Pascal Zuberbuhler to tip his swerving effort over the bar and Hasselbaink also going close with a header from Downing's cross.
Delgado made the breakthrough for the Swiss, just two minutes before half-time, when he cut in from the left flank and unleashed a shot that caught on the uneven surface and spun over Schwarzer and into the net. Worse was to follow for the Teessiders on the stroke of half-time when Eduardo's beautifully weighted pass behind Pogatetz was swept home by Degen.
Riot police were sent into the crowd during the interval to break up some scuffles, the officers quickly establishing a cordon around the away support. Moments later the 1,400 travelling fans almost had cause to celebrate as Riggott powered a header against the bar from Mendieta's corner.
But Basle quickly resumed where they had left off in the first half, Delgado sending a curling free-kick crashing on to Schwarzer's bar after Ray Parlour had fouled Berner.
Pogatetz was replaced by Ugo Ehiogu after breaking his nose, and Boro's revamped defence was called upon straight away, Riggott clearing Scott Chipperfield's shot off the line.
McClaren introduced Yakubu and Fabio Rochemback with 15 minutes to go as Boro sought to claw their way back into the tie, and Ehiogu almost scored a vital away goal in the last minute, but his powerful header was smothered by Zuberbuhler.
Basle (4-4-2): Zuberbuhler; Majstorovic, Berner, Smiljanic, Sterjovski (Chipperfield, 64); Ba, Delgado, Degen, Zanni; Eduardo Da Silva, Petric (Ergic, 85). Substitutes not used: Crayton (gk), Quennoz, Rakitic, Kuzmanovic, Kulaksizoglu.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Pogatetz (Ehiogu, 69), Queudrue; Mendieta (Rochemback, 75), Parlour, Doriva, Downing; Hasselbaink (Yakubu, 75), Viduka. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Davies, Morrison, Taylor.
Referee: R Rosetti (Italy).Reuse content