English clubs enjoyed mixed fortunes in the first legs of their Europa League quarter-finals last night.
Tottenham drew 2-2 at home with Basel at White Hart Lane and were probably slightly lucky.
Chelsea secured a comfortable 3-1 victory over Russian side Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge and Newcastle were beaten 3-1 at Portuguese giants Benfica.
As per usual, Spurs put their fans through the mill at White Hart Lane. For the first 40 minutes of the game the side from north London looked like they were set for a very difficult night.
Basel was simply outstanding and the movement of attackers Marco Streller, Valentin Stocker and Mohamed Salah mystified the Spurs backline. Their movement brought about the first goal of the game and Stocker had a chance to put his side three goals up, but chipped an effort narrowly wide.
Incredibly, the home side could have been on level terms before the break. Emmanuel Adebayor’s athletic effort after a scramble put Tottenham back into the game. On the stroke of half time, Scott Parker produced what looked like a terrible miss on first glance.
The England midfielder followed the ball in after Lewis Holtby had clashed with Basel keeper Yann Sommer and with the goal gapping Parker fired wide. On first view it did look like it was terrible miss, but replays showed that Parker’s effort had hit Holtby’s foot, as the German was still on the floor from the initial clash.
Tottenham did equalise through a deflected effort from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the second half, but Basel continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack with the lightning quick Salah and the skillful Stocker always a threat.
The worse news of the night for Spurs came in injury-time, as star player Gareth Bale went down with an ankle injury. It looked like a terrible injury on further viewing and Spurs are yet to find out the extent of the injury.
It’s fair to say that he won’t be playing in Spurs vital game against Everton at the weekend though. I think most real football fans wish Bale a quick recovery, because he has been one of the stars of the season.
The two away goals for Basel make this tie a really difficult one for Spurs to recover. If they are also missing Bale, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon it could be a very difficult ask. Basel are no pushovers and still have suspended players to come back into their team.
Tottenham’s London rivals Chelsea had a far more comfortable evening against Russian side Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge. A 3-1 win makes it difficult for Rubin to come back in the second leg.
Zoro, I mean Fernando Torres started to look like the Torres of old. However, he has had so many false dawns in his Chelsea career that we can’t get too excited. The Spanish international striker did score a brace and looked lively though.
The only concern for Chelsea is the away goal. INTERIM Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has rotated his squad in recent months to give Chelsea the best possible chance of claiming silverware this season.
If he picks the wrong team in Russia then Rubin could easy recover from a two-goal deficit, I mean look at how Southampton took Chelsea apart last weekend. That defeat was on the back Rafa making a host of changes.
The decision didn’t pay off in the league, but they did defeat Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday, so it’s swings and roundabouts for Benitez and Chelsea.
The other English club in the competition Newcastle suffered a 3-1 defeat in Lisbon at Benfica. Papiss Cisse’s early goal gave the Magpies hope of causing a shock, but Benfica are outstanding on their home patch and goals from Rodrigo, Lima and Oscar Cardozo secured the win for the Portuguese side.
Newcastle still have hope of progressing though courtesy of their away goal. Benfica are not unbeatable and if the St James Park crowd are up for it they could aide their teams chances of making it through to the last four of the competition.
Obviously the Magpies have the hardest task on their hands of the three English clubs, but a two goal deficit can quickly be overturned in European football.
To be honest I don’t think English clubs could have endured more mixed fortunes in the Europa League last night. One win, one draw and one defeat, I still think that all three have a chance of making it into the semi-finals.
The Europa League is often derided as the Champions League poorer relation. However for fans of the the teams still involved I’m sure they wouldn’t belittle the competition, although Spurs fans might now just be regretting Gareth Bale appearing against Basel on Thursday night.
Will all the English clubs make it through to the semi-finals?