Tim Sherwood didn't exactly put out his strongest eleven for what was an important game against Benfica on Thursday night
Tottenham Hotspur put up a spirited performance against Benfica on Thursday night but couldn't manage to overturn the two goal deficit sustained in the first leg. After losing 3-1 at White Hart Lane things were made a lot tougher when they went one goal down via Manchester United target Ezequiel Garay.
Spurs looked like producing a stunning late comeback however when two Nacer Chadli goals within as many minutes gave his side a great chance. Just one more goal would have brought them level and sent the tie into extra-time. Harry Kane had a great chance with a header in the last minute, but then Benfica surged up the other end and makeshift centre-back Sandro barged over Lima, and he stepped up to convert the penalty.
Spurs were very close to beating Benfica and consigning them to their first defeat in 23 games. It was a good effort considering the weak team they had out. The defence has been depleted through injuries. Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches were all unavailable and Sandro was partnered with Ezequiel Fryers in the heart of the defence. Hardly a great combination when you're up against Benfica.
Tottenham were forced into fielding a youthful bench with Jordan Archer, Dominic Ball, Connor Ogilvie, and Harry Winks joining Christian Eriksen and Kane. It was a surprise to see Eriksen on the bench given Spurs' weak side, they needed someone with his creativity given they knew they would have to score at least three goals to progress.
Eriksen and Kane were the only viable substitutions therefore giving Sherwood little scope to tinker with the team. Paulinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Lamela, Moussa Dembele, and Etienne Capoue were also unavailable and Spurs would clearly have stood a much greater chance with just one or two of those in the side.
Soldado again proved wasteful whereas Adebayor could have been more clinical. With Tottenham's league situation looking as if 5th place would be their best hope, they could find themselves in the Europa League again next season. Although Everton and Manchester United will be pushing them close for that.
Therefore the game against Benfica was effectively Tottenham's biggest game of the season. It was a chance to progress and win a trophy. The quarter-final draw has seen Benfica paired with AZ Alkmaar; a tie which Spurs would have been heavy favourites to win, and a semi-final place could have been theirs.
Who knows from then on, they could have won the Europa League, but even a semi-final place would have been seen as a great achievement for Tim Sherwood. As it is, 5th is all he can hope for now, and that will just leave them in the Europa League once again. Another season filled with countless Thursday night games is not something the Spurs board will be happy with.
Harry Redknapp led them to 4th in 2012 but that wasn't deemed good enough by the board as they didn't qualify for the Champions League due to Chelsea winning the competition and finishing 6th. It was a surprise especially after all Harry had done for them.
This season it seems as if Daniel Levy was almost forced into appointing Sherwood following his comments when in caretaker charge. It also seemed apparent that his preferential target wasn't available at that time. Despite Sherwood's contract leading him through to the end of next season, not at any point have I believed that Tottenham would not look to replace him in the summer.
Louis Van Gaal looks the obvious choice after the World Cup, and the shortcomings in the Europa League will sadly be the last nail in Sherwood's coffin. A shame because he has been a breath of fresh air and brought something different to the Premier League with his unorthodox approach, interviews and his Gillet.