Alexander Frei scored two and set up another as FC Basel 1893 eased into the UEFA Champions League group stage for the third time at the expense of FC Sheriff.
A goal up following the first instalment of their play-off tie, Marco Streller doubled Basel’s aggregate lead in the 74th minute by heading in Frei’s free-kick from the left. After home captain Vazha Tarkhnishvili was dismissed for a second booking soon after, Frei put the seal on a comfortable passage with two late efforts, meaning Sheriff – making their tenth successive tilt at reaching the competition proper – must settle for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League again.
The visitors built on their narrow first-leg advantage with three goals in the final 16 minutes in Tiraspol. Andrei Sosnitski’s pre-match assertion that his Sheriff team had “nothing to lose” was borne out in a highly-charged start from the Moldovan side, who soon had the Basel rearguard in retreat. For all their early endeavour, however, the only moment of concern for Basel goalkeeper Franco Costanzo arrived just before the quarter-hour mark when he dived on Benjamin Balima’s low cutback.
Basel soon gained a measure of control and after Balima headed Miloš Adamović’s free-kick wide, only José Nadson’s block in front of goal prevented Streller from doubling the Swiss side’s aggregate lead. That was the one clear-cut chance for either team in a first half high on effort but lacking in cutting edge; Valentin Stocker’s wayward shot eight minutes after the restart did little to suggest the course of proceedings was about to change.
Baco Nikolić’s shot straight at Costanzo typified the limited nature of Sheriff’s attacking means and if the expectant home fans were already beginning to doubt their team’s chances, Streller’s glancing header 16 minutes from time all but extinguished their hopes. With Sheriff looking beaten and a man down following Tarkhnishvili’s dismissal, Frei seized on Vladislav Stoyanov’s failure to gather Stocker’s cross to add a second. Basel’s third came three minutes from time, Frei neatly chipping the Sheriff goalkeeper after being played in by substitute Xherdan Shaqiri. Basel discover their group opposition on Thursday.