Basel reached the semifinals of the Europa League as they beat Tottenham 4-1 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in Switzerland that left the tie level at 4-4 on aggregate.
Marcelo Diaz scored the decisive spot kick after Tom Huddlestone’s penalty had been saved by Yann Sommer and Emmanuel Adebayor’s poor effort went over the bar.
Having comeback from 2-0 to rescue a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane last week, Tottenham had further enhanced their position when Clint Dempsey put them ahead after 23 minutes at St. Jakob-Park. But the visitors’ defense was again troubled by Basel throughout and they soon assumed pole position once more courtesy of Mohamed Salah before Aleksandar Dragovic added a second after the break.
The lead looked like being decisive, but in the 82nd minute Clint Dempsey struck to send the tie into extra time, although Tottenham would be forced to play the extra 30 minutes with 10 mean after Jan Vertonghen was sent off in injury time. Basel twice came close to getting the win in extra time, but led throughout the shootout to reach the last four of a European competition for the first time in their history.
As for Tottenham, still fourth in the Premier League, they will now be forced to concentrate all their efforts on trying to attain a place in the Champions League next season.
They will also be hoping for a quick return to fitness of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon after the pair''s pace was sorely missed by Spurs in Switzerland.
Villas-Boas had said beforehand that he expected another open game and that’s exactly what transpired as it swung end to end with both defenses struggled to keep their opponents at bay, particularly in the opening half.
Unlike in London last week, it was Tottenham that struck first, although with considerable help from their opponents.
Jan Vertonghen’s low ball from halfway should have been intercepted by Dragovic on the edge of his box, but sliding on the wet surface he only succeeded in holding it up for Dempsey, who rounded the goalkeeper and tucked it into the empty net.
That never looked like being the only goal of the contest and it only took four minutes for Basel to respond, with an error again playing a key part in a goal. Mousa Dembele sloppily gave the ball away inside his own half and Basel pounced as Streller laid it to his right for Salah, who recovered from his heavy first touch with a skillful poke with the outside of his left foot into the bottom corner.
The action only became more frenetic for the rest of the period. Tottenham’s high defensive line and often carelessness in possession meant Basel looked a constant threat going forward. Streller failed to make the best of one of their clearest openings when he looked to square the ball rather than firing at goal himself.
At the other end, Emmanuel Adebayor, whose performance failed to back up his manager's praise beforehand, chose the opposite route as he shot tamely at Sommer from the angle, ignoring teammates in the middle.
In the midst of the action, Tottenham may well have been awarded a penalty when Fabian Schar blocked a shot from Gylfi Sigurdsson with his elbow.
The end-to-end nature of the encounter immediately continued after the break.
Friedel blocked an effort from the angle by Streller, but he was left helpless from the resulting corner.
Schar just managed to get his head to the ball at the near post and the veteran American keeper could only parry it straight back out where Dragovic was on hand to side-foot the ball into the net.
Adebayor quickly wasted another opportunity as he struck the ball into the side netting while another header from Dragovic came agonizingly close to giving him his second goal of the contest but the ball drifted just wide.
As the match edged toward its conclusion, Basel began sitting back for the first time in the contest in an effort to try and preserve their lead.
In truth, Tottenham didn’t look like getting back into the match, before, with just seven minutes remaining, one of their substitutes made a key contribution. Tom Huddlestone played a perfect ball over the top of the Basel defense for Dempsey, who controlled the ball well on his chest in the box and, under pressure, struck a shot that Sommer got a hand to but couldn’t prevent from crossing the line.
The action didn’t let up for the remaining minutes of normal time either. Joo-Ho Park almost turned the ball into his own net at one end as the ball ran across the face of goal. At the other, Tottenham were reduced to 10 men when Vertonghen tripped Streller as he looked to run clear onto a through ball on the edge of the box and referee Olegario Benquerenca produced a red card.
In extra time it was understandably largely one-way traffic, but Basel were unable to force a third goal.
Mohamed Elmeny almost produced a stunning winner eight minutes into the first period with a rasping drive from more than 25 yards that beat the dive of Friedel but stuck the outside of the post.
In the second 15 minute spell, veteran striker Alexander Frei, with his first involvement after coming on, had the chance to make himself an even bigger hero to Basel’s fans but Michael Dawson produced a sensational block to deny the 33-year-old.
Going first in the shootout, Basel always had the advantage after Schar scored and then Huddlestone’s effort was saved by a diving Sommer. Streller, Sigurdsson and Fabian Frei then all converted before Adebayor’s nonchalant run up was followed by a side-footed effort over the bar. And Diaz was composure personified as the substitute sent Basel through to a meeting with either Chelseam Benfica or Fenerbahce.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.