Europa League may be a wee bit under-loved, the NIT of soccer in the Old World and all, but it certainly does deliver some crackerjack matches, doesn’t it?
Tottenham-Basel on Thursday was a great example. Tottenham fell behind by two goals inside 35 minutes as the spirited fans from Switzerland sang with great joy from inside White Hart Lane. But Tottenham rallied behind goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson to finish in a swell 2-2 draw in the Europa League quarterfinal first leg.
Tottenham’s defending, nervous and messy, plus a good attacking initiative from two sides willing to be aggressive made this match a dandy to watch, even for fans unattached to either side.
Scott Parker’s first half miss (still trying to sort out exactly how he went wide from inside the six, with only his own fallen player to avoid) was among the numerous chances that came and went with such rapid succession on either side.
The only bummer was Gareth Bale’s late ankle injury; more on that one later, because it could be huge for Spurs in so many ways. We might be talking about Aaron Lennon’s hamstring injury earlier in the match, but Bale’s ongoing availability is far more important around the north London ground.
Andre Villas-Boas and his Spurs have made this tournament a priority, possibly even at the expense of ongoing EPL matters; Third-place Spurs must hold off Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton for a top-four finish and a lucrative Champions League spot next year. (That very spot, of course, was the apple in Clint Dempsey’s eye when he moved so dramatically out of Fulham a few months ago.)
The two away goals for Basel will make things hard on Villas-Boas and his men in next week’s return leg, especially if there is no Gareth Bale. Ironically, in a game with so many offensive flare-ups, Bale was mostly quiet on Thursday, but Spurs will surely hate the thought of traveling to Switzerland without him.
Former American international Brad Friedel was in goal for Spurs; Dempsey entered after 63 minutes.