Tottenham 2-2 Basel: Spurs Show Their Spirit in Crashing out of Europa League
The dust has settled on Tottenham's battle with FC Basel in the second leg of their Europa League tie Thursday—the north Londoners were sent crashing out of the second-tier European competition on penalties.
Spurs' performance in the penalty shootout was certainly disappointing, as only one of their three shooters put their shots in the net.
However, Tottenham supporters should take heart in their side's performance and the heart they showed in defeat.
Coming into Thursday's match, Spurs were in a tough position.
Having drawn 2-2 at White Hart Lane in the first leg a week earlier, Tottenham was in need of at least one goal before the match even started.
With Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe nursing on the sidelines, that was always going to be a tough proposition. After all, the three had accounted for almost half of the club's goals since the new year and provided the club with its speed and width.
Further, Basel hadn't allowed a goal at home for 1042 match minutes, a record that spanned back to October. In fact, the club had only conceded two goals at home in manager Murat Yakin's five-month tenure.
Hence, the odds seemed quite stacked against the Londoners before the opening whistle.
Thus, when Clint Dempsey was able to pounce on a ball and slot it home 20 minutes into the match, the goal was a huge opener that allowed Spurs to believe in their attack.
Sure, the goal was borne through a horrendous error by Basel at the back, but the goal was still able to lift the confidence level of Tottenham and its players.
As the match progressed, Basel's Mohamed Salah began to make a huge impact on the match, pushing hard up the field and causing great trouble for Spurs' back-line.
In particular, left-back Kyle Naughton had great difficulty with his Egyptian opposition. A natural right-back, Naughton has been shifted to the left as needed and, to his credit, has done quite well. This test, though, was a tough one for him.
Less than five minutes after the Dempsey opener, Salah put the ball past Brad Friedel and Basel back on top thanks to their superior away goals.
In need of another goal, Tottenham pushed up the field. When the club conceded another goal soon after half-time, that need for a goal was still the same.
As the minutes ticked away in the match, that goal did not look to be coming.
Finally, with less than 10 minutes to play in regular time, it was Dempsey again who found a soft spot in the defense and slotted past the keeper to draw the tie level.
The American's performance on Thursday was huge for his standing at White Hart Lane. Clint has had his struggles at Tottenham since signing in August and has even been pushed down in the depth chart behind the 23-year-old Gylfi Sigurdsson and the 22-year-old Lewis Holtby.
With Bale and Lennon out in the midfield, Dempsey got another chance to prove himself. Meanwhile, a poor performance could have made Spurs look at their younger options and determine Dempsey to be surplus to their needs and ship him off in the transfer window this summer.
After that late goal, Spurs had the upper hand for the first time in this tie, as the momentum took a clear swing in their favor.
However, in the 90th minute, Jan Vertonghen was sent off for a poor tackle on Marco Streller when he was the last man before the goal.
From there, it was clamp-down mode for Tottenham and, to their credit, were able to defy the odds and hold on until the final whistle and, incredibly, for the half-hour of extra time.
While the slot-machine of the penalty shootout did not go Spurs' way from there, it should not diminish the heart the club showed through those 120 minutes.
With the odds stacked against them on so many occasions and in front of a hostile crowd, Spurs continually responded and did everything in their power to give themselves a chance to win.
Now, this is not to say that every player had a good match.
How do you feel about Spurs' Europa League exit?
As was quite obvious, Emmanuel Adebayor played a horrific 120 minutes, capped off by his ridiculous penalty attempt.
However, for the majority of these Tottenham players, the hard work and determination were obvious throughout the match.
With a place in the top four still up for grabs over their final few matches, this is a very good sign for Spurs.
Further, and perhaps even more importantly, the performance is a good sign for the club going forward should Bale decide to leave this summer.
Spurs' European adventure may have come to an end for another season, but the club and its supporters should be proud of the way the players went down swinging.
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