Basel 2 Tottenham 2: Three lessons as Spurs lose on penalties
Basel 2 Tottenham 2: What lessons did we learn as Andre Villas-Boas's side suffered a 4-1 loss on penalties?
Spurs are a different proposition without Bale & Lennon
While Barcelona were able to field Lionel Messi when Paris Saint-Germain had the Catalans on the ropes in the Champions League on Wednesday night, Andre Villas-Boas was not afforded the same luxury, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon both sidelined. The two wingers have been key to Tottenham’s success this season, scoring goals, making assists and providing balance to Villas-Boas’s side. Without the two speed merchants, Spurs struggled to break down what was a finely-tuned Basel side bidding to win the Treble this term. It was congested in midfield, with neither Bale nor Lennon available to offer width and movement behind the Basel defence. With Mousa Dembele enduring a 60 minutes to forget, the onus fell on Emmanuel Adebayor to save Tottenham from making a last-eight exit. The striker, who has scored two Premier League goals this season, produced a characteristically languid display, overrunning his one clear-cut chance to test Yann Sommer. The 29-year-old’s dire penalty miss in the decisive shootout was an accurate reflection of the striker’s abject season.
Defensive errors bring second leg to life but can’t save Spurs
After a dour opening 23 minutes, it was no surprise chances were limited, with wet conditions testing both sets of players. Inevitably a mistake came as Aleksander Dragovic made a catastrophic attempt to clear Scott Parker’s straightforward pass. Clint Dempsey seized upon the loose ball, taking it around Basel goalkeeper Sommer before calmly slotting his finish into the empty net. It looked like Villas-Boas’s luck had finally turned but minutes later and Basel were level again – and ahead in the tie. Dembele’s careless pass was intercepted by Marco Streller and he unselfishly teed up Valentin Stocker, who instinctively finished past Brad Friedel. With Spurs heading out of the competition, the north London side benefited from more generous Basel defending in the 82nd minute. Dempsey capitalised on calamitous defending and struck a tame shot at Sommer and the Basel goalkeeper fluffed his attempt to parry the ball clear, levelling the tie on aggregate. Sommer would later make amends for that error with a fine save to deny Tom Huddlestone in the penalty shootout.
Should Lloris have played?
It would be harsh to criticise Villas-Boas for sticking with veteran goalkeeper Friedel, who has been an ever-present in the Tottenham goal throughout their Europa League campaign. The 41-year-old, who is the oldest player in the competition and more than six years older than his boss, was favoured ahead of France international Hugo Lloris despite difficult conditions. While the American was solid throughout most of the second leg, such close encounters are decided upon small margins, and Friedel was at fault for Basel’s second goal. Stocker’s corner was flicked on at near post by Fabian Schar, with Friedel pushing the ball to the feet of Dragovic. The Basel defender atoned for his early mistake with an emphatic drive past a Spurs defence in disarray. The former Liverpool goalkeeper was thrust into the spotlight again after 120 minutes failed to split Basel and Tottenham, but Friedel was unable to save a single spot-kick as the Swiss side calmly dispatched their efforts as Spurs floundered.