DAVID SMITH - Friday, April 12, 2013
Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel and Tottenham were knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday, falling to Basel in the final penalty shootout to see their European hopes come to a crashing halt.
Dempsey scored Tottenham's opening goal midway through the first half and their second late in the game, but never had the chance to step up to the spot in the final shootout thanks to a poor display by two of the team's first three selections.
Brad Friedel started in goal for the visitors, and was unable to stop any of Basel's four successful penalty attempts.
The two teams had fought to a 2-2 draw in last week's opening leg, giving the visitors the absolute necessity to score in order to overcome the away goals they had allowed in London.
They took the initiative from the get-go, pressing forward against the Swiss powerhouse and forcing their opponents to drop deep to absorb the pressure.
Then 23 minutes after the opening whistle, central defender Jan Vertonghen found the key to unlock the Swiss defense. He fired a low pass forward from the midfield stripe towards the streaking Clint Dempsey which was perfectly placed and weighted to cut through the opposing defense.
Basel keeper Yann Sommer's split-second pause as the ball neared allowed Dempsey the time to collect possession and carry it to the left, where he proceeded to hit a low tight-angled shot that rolled into the open net.
The lead lasted for just four minutes as a sloppy pass from Mousa Dembele gifted possession to the Basel's Mohamed El-Nenny with deadly consequences. Marco Streller hit Mohamed Salah with a pass outside the area, and the Egyptian striker fired a low shot that evaded the dive of Friedel and found the lower right corner for 1-1.
Basel then grabbed the lead four minutes after the break on a set piece situation in which Friedel was largely at fault. After a slight delay to grab the ball from Streller foot led to a corner, the American keeper could only block Fabian Schar's header directly to Aleksander Dragovic, who easily fired in from close range.
Staring down the barrel of elimination, Spurs press forward increasingly through the remainder of the second half, and did manage to break through to pull even on both aggregate and away goals with eight minutes remaining.
Substitute Tom Huddlestone chipped a pass over the defense to Dempsey on the upper right corner of the six-yard box. The American chested the ball down and hit a fine left-footed shot that beat Sommer at the near post.
As the game headed into extra time, Vertonghen made things difficult for Tottenham, drawing a straight red in the 90th minute when he tripped Streller on a breakaway. This left Spurs with hardly any route but to hold on for the 30 minutes of overtime and hope to test their luck in the final penalty shootout.
Unfortunately for the squad of Andre Villas-Boas, luck was not on their side, as they failed to end their nearly 20-year streak of losing in penalty situations. A successful attempt by Gylfi Sigurdsson was sandwiched by misses from Tom Huddlestone and Emmanuel Adebayor, with four successful shots from the hosts clinching the win.
Tottenham can now concentrate on their as of late faltering league campaign, where they are in danger of falling out of the final Champions League qualification spot. They have a week off before hosting Manchester City in a match crucial to their hopes of a top-four finish.