A cruel blow, but we move on - Daws
Michael Dawson led from the front as we fought with 10 men to take our Europa League quarter-final against FC Basel to penalties.
Now he’s confident the players will pick themselves up from the considerable blow of going out of the competition in the hardest way possible to put together a strong finale to the season.
Things were looking good at Basel’s St Jakob Park when Clint Dempsey struck the goal we all wanted to level the tie at 2-2 on the night at 4-4 on aggregate.
But the rollercoaster quarter-final took another turn in the final minute when Jan Vertonghen was sent off for tripping Marco Streller when he was through on goal.
The lads dug deep with 10 men in extra time and restricted Basel to few chances – the closest they came was when Mohamed Elneny curled onto the post.
So with the scores level, it went to a penalty shoot-out. Basel struck first and then dealt a psychological blow when Tom Huddlestone’s effort was superbly saved by Yann Sommer.
We couldn’t recover from there and eventually lost the shoot-out 4-1, with Gylfi Sigurdsson on target.
“It’s cruel to go out the way we did and everyone is gutted,” said Michael. “We wanted to win the Europa League and we said that from day one.
“To go down to 10 men right at the end and fight and dig deep like we did in extra time, you can only give credit to the lads.
“We came away from home, we were underdogs and many people had written us off. We put on a performance and we’re devastated we’re not going through to the semi-finals of the Europa League.”
We now have six matches remaining – City, Wigan, Southampton, Stoke, Sunderland plus one to be re-arranged against Chelsea – to try and secure a place in the top four of the Premier League.
“You get these setbacks in football,” added Michael. “Everyone is gutted but we have to move on and the target is to finish in the top four now and to get into the Champions League.”
The run-in starts when we return to action against City at the Lane on Sunday, April 21.