OPPONENTS FC Basel (Switzerland)
COMPETITION Europa League Quarter Final First Leg
DATE Thursday 4th April 2013
VENUE White Hart Lane






Not being an aficionado of Swiss football, I am not that au fait with FC Basel's progress this season, other than knowing that they were Swiss Champions last season and were knocked out of the Champions League in qualifying by FC Clug.  They currently lead their national league by three points from Grasshoppers.

Dropping down into the Europa League they finished second behind Genk in their group and went on to beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and then Zenit St. Petersburg on away goals after having a player sent off in the second leg.  Zenit missed a late penalty, but Basel held on.   From looking at their European away record, they are on a run of six gamed without a win.   However, at home, they have given good performances in knocking Manchester United out of the CL back in 2003 and only losing to Liverpool on away goals in 2002.  They also took four points off United in the CL group  stage last season, but then on the other hand they got knocked out of the Europa League a couple of seasons back by Fulham.  But those games are some way back in time, although they should not be under-estimated.

Of their team, there are a few familiar names.  International team striker Alexandre Frei is in his last year of playing and might be looking to go out with a bang and the partner up front will be Marco Streller who plays for Switzerland too.  Veteran in the UEFA Cup/Europa League David Degen, who has played the third highest number of matches in the tournament, featured in the Play-off round in our first Champions League campaign, when he was playing for Young Boys of Bern.  His brother Philipp played for Liverpool, but only about seven times in three years at Anfield. 

The keeper Yann Sommer has played for the national side and is an athletic goalie, who saved the penalty in the last round to see Basel through.  Their two Egyptians midfielders Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Elneny link well and can be a potentially effective weapon, with their good movement and understanding.  Another midfielder Valentin Stocker is a frequent scorer, who breaks up-field to link with the front men.

The Swiss side play a fast and athletic game, covering lots of ground in shutting opposition teams down and then breaking in support of the forwards to attack in numbers.  They will try to get an away goal at least, as they are very tight at the back when playing at home.  Spurs will need to ensure that their re-arranged back line keep their concentration.  With BAE due to return at left back, with Kyle Naughton switching to cover at right back for the suspended Kyle Walker, I would imagine that Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen will play in the middle.  The rest of the team picks itself really, with Defoe out injured.  Ade will lead the line and Bale, Sigurdsson and Lennon playing behind him, with Parker and Dembele the defensive two in front of the back four.  We need a good showing from Mousa and he has done well in the European matches, so hopefully, this game will see him shine.

The game will be tight, as they will come looking to limit the effectiveness of Bale and Lennon.  They seem to pick up a goodly amount of yellow cards, so expect the approach to be physical and maybe a little cynical in their defence, but Spurs should be able to get a couple of goals, even without Defoe in the side, if we play to our potential.  But there is always the worry that we will concede.  We didn't against Inter, but that was because they were so poor.  I am not sure Basel will be as bad, so we have to make sure that they look as bad.  I stilll think we are capable of shipping one goal though, which will make the second leg quite nervy.


PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2         FC Basel    1
Tottenham will be without Jermain Defoe (leg muscle), Sandro (knee), Younes Kaboul (knee), Tom Carroll (hamstring) and Kyle Walker (suspension), but Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey are both available for this match.
Suspensions deprive Basel of three players for the first leg.  Defender Park Joo Ho and Phillip Degen are both missing because of suspension and Midfielder Marcelo Diaz was sent off in the last game and is also banned.

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Tottenham Hotspur  2 (1)                                                                  FC Basel  2 (2)
Europa League Quarter Final First Leg
Thursday 4th April 2013                                                                                                               Kick off 20:05
White Hart Lane
Adebayor  40
Sigurdsson 58
Stocker 30
Fabian Frei 35
Gallas (foul on Streller)  29
Parker (foul on Salah)  64


Fabian Frei (foul on Dembele)  47 


Crowd :  32,136 Weather :  Cold, dry
Referee :  Milorad Mazic (SER) Assistant Referees :  Milovan Ristic; Igor Radojcic (SER)
Fourth Official :  Dalibor Djurdjevic (SER) Additional Assistant Referees : Danilo Grujic; Miodrag Gojic (SER)
UEFA Observer :  Roland Tis (BEL) Referee Observer : Pierluigi Collina (ITA)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit FC Basel : kit
24  Brad FRIEDEL

13  William GALLAS      
32  Benoit ASSOU-EKOTTO  (20  Michael DAWSON 57)

19  Mousa DEMBELE
  8  Scott PARKER (c)      

  7  Aaron LENNON  (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 24  )
11  Gareth BALE
14  Lewis HOLTBY  (  2  Clint DEMPSEY 63)

10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR 

Unused subs: 
25  Hugo LLORIS
33  Steven CAULKER

    1  Yann SOMMER

  6  Aleksandar DRAGOVIC
16  Fabian SCHAR
15  Kay VOSER

22  Mohamed SALAH (  7  Philipp DEGEN 84)
8  Geoffroy SEREY DIE (24  Adilson CABRAL 66)
33  Mohamed EL-NENNY
14  Valentin STOCKER 

20  Fabian FREI      

  9  Marco STRELLER (c) (31  Jacques ZOUA 71)

Unused subs: 
18  Germano VAILATI
  5  Albian AJETI
26  Gaston SAURO
13  Alexandre FREI

Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas Manager :  Murat Yakin
Sponsor :   Investec Shirt sponsor :  Novartis
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

Without being too over-dramatic, this open Europa League quarter final 2-2 draw was over-shadowed by injuries to two Spurs players that cast a dark shadow over the night and possibly the rest of the season.  Having gone 0-2 behind to a fluent and skilful FC Basel side, Tottenham picked themselves up to come back to level the first leg score at 2-2, but in the process lost wide men Aaron Lennon in the first half and Gareth Baler at the very end of the game, leaving Spurs with only nine players to finish the match.

Spurs lined up with Adebayor up front with Bale tucked in just behind him, Lewis Holtby and Aaron Lennon filling the wide positions.  Assou-Ekotto returned at left back, while the previous incumbent, Kyle Naughton moved over to cover the other Kyle, who was suspended for one match.  Also returning was William Gallas to partner Jan Vertonghen at centre half, with Brad Friedel keeping his place in goal.

Throughout the game, Basel produced a physical side to their game that had been predicted in the match preview above.  No strangers to yellow cards previously in the tournament, it was a surprise that the Serbian referee did not feel the need to bring it out more often for some bizarre challenges in the opening stages.   Prime suspect in the opening stages was their number 8 - sporting a Djibril Cisse style blonde ridge in his hair - he ran about like a Gremlin, crashing into Spurs players, when he wasn't grappling or rugby-tackling them.  He committed a good five fouls before he was spoken to and he escaped without a yellow, while Spurs ended up with two (probably both deserved, but in a week when Barcelona complained about the refereeing in their game against PSG, perhaps other teams should be allowed to moan).  It was a strange approach, as their passing and speedy movement, featuring the pace and trickery of Mohamed Salah on the right wing, allowed them to move through the Spurs midfield without knocking them out of the way.

There had been a couple of occasions prior to the first goal, when they had created shooting chances for Schlar and Salah on the right side of the box within a minute - both arising from slick passing and players losing their markers.  The ball inside Benny for Salah or Stocker to run onto seemed to have been identified as a way around the Spurs defence.  Salah also had a volleying opportunity from inside the box, but did not control it and it flew high into the Paxton.

Spurs got things together a bit more and when Dembele was dragged down on the left corner of the box, Bale shape dup to take one of his trademark free-kicks, but as he was so close, it would have been difficult to get the ball up and over the wall from just over 18 yards out, so he drove the ball wide of the wall and it was heading for Assou-Ekotto up in the box, but a defender got a touch and the ball slowed down for keeper Sommer to take it comfortably.  In the 19th minute, a throw-in on the left lead to the ball being played in to Adebayor.  The ball was knocked back to Holtby, close to him, and his first time ball across the box picked out Bale and his first time shot from 12 yards out sent the keeper the wrong way, but it missed the target to the left of the goal. 

Shortly after, Aaron Lennon limped off, having only had a couple of runs at the Basel defence, without seeming to take a heavy knock apart from when Voser blocked him off when going for a return pass from Naughton on the right wing.  And it was Naughton in the 26th minute, who went closest for Tottenham, hitting a cleared corner on the volley from 25 yards out and the ball went wide, but only because to flicked off a Basel heel. 

When the goal did come, Spurs had a hand in it.  Benny lost the ball in his own half, which Basel quickly turned into attack, with Stocker taking the ball into the box from a central run and he played it to his left to Streller.  The lanky striker turned well and hit a low shot that beat Brad, but not his left hand post.  Just when Spurs thought their luck was in, the ball bounced off the foot of the post, right back into the heart of the area, where Sticker coolly side-footed in a firm shot to put the Swiss 1-0 up on the half hour.  No sooner had Spurs gone behind, but the lead for the Basel team was doubled.  Five minutes after the first goal, a corner on the Basel right came in to the near post and Jan Vertonghen got a flick on it which took it to the back post, ten yards out, only for Fabian Frei to dive low to head the ball under Friedel for 2-0, as Naughton had lost his man.

Players were looking dejected, walking around with their heads down and the team were being pulled apart.  Things could have got worse, as Stocker went through from half-way, holding off challenges and then producing a delicate chip over Friedel as he closed him down and the Spurs keeper had just done enough, as the ball drifted across the goal as Kyle Naughton got there.  This seemed to get the crowd, who had been quiet, behind the side and they responded.  Five minutes before the game reached half-time, Gareth Bale was out on the right and drilled a cross into the box.  As Adebayor went for it, a defender got there and the ball popped up into the air.  It moved beyond the far post, where Scott Parker retrieved it and played it back into the goalmouth.  As the ball bounced high, Ade stretched out a long leg to poke it into the roof of the net with s controlled finish, which might otherwise have finished over the top because of the high bounce.

Within a couple of minutes, Spurs could have been level.  With a slide rule pass diagonally through the defence, Gylfi Sigurdsson produced a moment like the Arsenal game, with Lewis Holtby running onto it.  Sommer was out to him quickly, blocking the ball, but it rolled back behind the Spurs midfielder for Scott Parker to run onto.  It looked like he would score his first Spurs goal at a vital moment in the game, but the next thing we knew was that the ball had gone wide of the relatively empty goal.  We had to wait until the replay at half-time to see exactly what had happened, with Parker running in, Holtby was on the floor in front of him and he tried to avoid him, but the ball came off Holtby's boot and went wide.  Going in at 2-2 might have given Spurs the stronger mentality in the second half, but the way they had got back into the game must have had the same effect. 

After a low key appearance from David Ginola at the interval, the second half started with Tottenham stepping up the tempo and Holtby tried am early shot from outside the right corner of the are, but it swerved the wrong way and went out for a goal kick.   But Basel reacted with a break that saw Vertonghen produce a very good block on the edge of the box, as Stocker got away a shot.  Ten minutes into the half, Brad made a vital save to keep Spurs in the match.  Salah had shown his trickery already in the match, but he wriggled past Vertonghen close to the dead ball line and cut inside and made a better angle for himself to shoot at goal, but Friedel had his near post covered and the danger passed for the moment.  And that moment saw the ball moved to the other end of the pitch and a corner won.  As it was headed out, Benny cushioned a header on his massive afro into the path of Kyle Naughton, who hit it first time from 30 yards out, forcing Sommer to an athletic dive up to his left to palm the ball out as it looked as if it was destined for the top corner of the goalie's net.

There was a substitution as AVB decided to replace Benny with Daws and a minute later, you could say it was an inspired substitution, as Tottenham equalised.  Not that Dawson had much to do with it, as the ball was played down the left and Sigurdsson cut inside and shaped to shoot, before letting off a shot that struck Schlar on the way through and the deflection took the ball past Sommer and put Spurs on equal terms again.

The game was still open, with Salah nipping in to intercept a short pass by Veronghen, which didn't have sufficient weight on it to reach Dawson, leaving the pacy winger through, but he tried to put the bal past Brad with too much precision, ending up putting the shot wide of the goal, when he really should have made Friedel save at the very least.  Again the play moved ends and Siggi and Jan made a chance for Holtby, who pulled it wide and it was the last action for him in the match, as he was substituted by Clint Dempsey.  Then it was Brad's turn to save again, reaching up to push a Stocker 30 yard curling free-kick that looked like it might creep in at the angle.

Spurs had been getting back into the game, as the batteries in the rival to the Duracell Bunny - Serey Die - ran out and his "impact" on the game dwindled.  Yakin made the decision to replace him with Cabaral, who was a more calm presence, but sat in front of the back four and stroked the ball around, helping Basel get come more control over the flow of the game.  It resulted in a couple of chances for the visitors with 20 minutes left, but both were wasted.  Voser showed a full back's finishing, with a rising shot that went way over and then the other substitute Zoua put the ball wide when in front of Freidel having received the ball from Steinhofer's pull back.  Parker was on hand to throw a great block in front of Stocker to block his effort just outside the area.

Spurs were holding on a bit, but then a weird incident occurred, when Basel had the ball outside their area and were passing it about between them and the referee blew his whistle.  Nobody was quite sure but he was indicating to Gallas that he should leave the field.  Not with a red card, but it appeared to be an injury.  Normally, refs only make players leave the pitch if there is a cut, so we assumed that !!  Leaving Spurs with ten men, as they had used all their subs, they had to re-arrange for the last few minutes, with Bale dropping to left back and Vertonghen moving back inside to partner Dawson, for whom he had moved to left back.  And then with three minutes of added time still left, Bale chased  a Basel player out of the Spurs half and in front of the bench went into a tackle, which was unnecessary, as the player was going nowhere and as Bale did so, he turned his right ankle and after examination, was carried off on a stretcher.   

The game ended soon after, with Spurs having only nine men on the field ... hoping that this wasn't the season being ended with the tie and the league campaign hanging  in the balance.

Stanford Rivers


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What you thought
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Other scores during this round :
Benfica (POR) 3 Newcastle United 1 Thursday
Fenerbahce (TUR) 2 SS Lazio (ITA)  0 Thursday
Chelsea  3 Rubin Kazan (RUS)  1 Thursday


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