DAVID SMITH - Saturday, April 6, 2013
Brad Friedel played the full 90 minutes in Tottenham's goal while Clint Dempsey was a second-half substitute as Spurs were forced to fight back to draw with Basel on Thursday.
Tottenham were considered to be heavy favorites over the reigning Swiss champions heading into the game, however a clear underestimation of their foes left them with a two-goal deficit after barely over a half-hour played.
The hosts were already dealt an early blow midway through the first half when one of their main attacking forces in Aaron Lennon went down injured, to be replaced by Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Matters went from bad to worse at the half hour, spurred on by a pointless loss of possession by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Fabian Schar recovered the ball and burst through two defenders before sliding it out wide to Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian international quickly centered it for Marco Streller whose shot went off the post, but landed in perfect position for Valentin Stocker to put away for the lead.
Then four minutes later, sloppy defensive play by the defense was once again the culprit, as Jan Vertonghen's poor clearance on a corner arched to an unmarked Fabian Frei for an open header to give Basel the 2-0 advantage.
This seemed to shock the hosts into action, as they pulled one back five minutes before the halftime whistle. Emanuel Adebayor was in perfect position to put away a cross from Gareth Bale in the center of the area, but whiffed on his initial shot.
Fortunately for the Togolese forward, Scott Parker quickly recovered and hit an attempt that deflected into Adebayor's path for an easy finish.
Two minutes before the hour, first-half substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson made himself useful, firing a 22-yarder just outside the area that took a slight deflection off of Schar and flew in past keeper Yann Sommer.
Dempsey entered five minutes later, but any chance he had to make a difference in the final minutes was limited as William Gallas hobbled off in the final ten minutes and Gareth Bale was forced to leave the game with an apparent ankle injury in the final minutes.
The game ended with the 2-2 draw, leaving both teams with work to do if they hope to progress to the final four.
The draw puts Tottenham in a difficult position. To progress to the semifinal round, they must either win outright in Thursday's return leg in Basel, or fight to a high-scoring draw.
Beforehand, they will host Everton on Sunday in Premier League action, as they try to hang onto their grip on Champions League qualification.