Jan Vertonghen scored early and Jermain Defoe equalled Martin Chivers’ European goalscoring record as Tottenham Hotspur recorded a 2-0 win at Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
The victory sees Spurs maintain their 100 percent record in Group K of the Europa League, where they have also yet to concede a single goal this season.
We haven't guaranteed a place in the KO stages tonight as Anji beat Tromso 1-0.— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 24, 2013
Sheriff, however, were anything but gracious hosts and set out to attack their guests from the opening whistle.
By the eighth minute they had earned three corners off a shaky Spurs defense, although on none of them could they trouble goalkeeper Hugo Lloris—a finishing problem that would haunt them throughout the encounter.
But Spurs settled quickly—passing the ball expertly on the fringes of the attacking third—and after only 12 minutes they took the lead when Jan Vertonghen rose above his marker to head Christian Eriksen’s superb cross into the goal.
Sheriff, looking to hit back with a quick equalizer, quite nearly restored level terms just three minutes later when Luvannor rounded Lloris, but with a gaping net awaiting, his goal-bound effort was cut out at the last instant by a heroic clearance from Vlad Chiriches.
It was to be the hosts’ best chance of the night.
Aaron Lennon might well have extended Tottenham’s lead midway through the opening period when he galloped in from the right, but his shot was poorly placed and easily dealt with by Sheriff ‘keeper Vjekoslav Tomic.
The second half began in a similar way as the first, with Sheriff earning a series of corners, but it took until the 59th minute for them to create a meaningful chance on the counter-attack through Cadu and the ever-dangerous Luvannor.
Lennon came close again shortly after the hour mark when he hit the upright with a meek effort, but only a few minutes later, Spurs had the insurance they needed—and Defoe had a share of Chivers’ record.
Accepting a layoff from Nacer Chadli, who had replaced the ineffective Erik Lamela, Defoe drove home a ferocious shot that left Tomic no chance as it bulged the back of the net. Two-nil to Spurs, and it was always all they were going to need.
Isa came close to pulling one back for Sheriff in the 82nd minute when he beat the on-rushing Lloris to a loose ball, but he couldn’t properly place his shot, and Spurs were once again let off the hook.
Key Player Grades
Christian Eriksen: A
Neither Lennon nor Lamela did much of anything on his left and right, but nevertheless the Danish maestro managed to create openings for his teammates and picked up an assist on Vertonghen’s opener after 12 minutes.
He completed 87 percent of his passes and touched the ball 98 times in Moldova (all statistics courtesy WhoScored).
Jermain Defoe: A-
He drifted in and out of the proceedings, but at the final whistle he had done exactly what was expected of him—scoring his fourth goal of the competition and providing Tottenham a measure of insurance with a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock.
The Sheriff attacker ran his socks off on Thursday and was generally his side’s most consistent goal threat.
He initially took on Kyle Naughton down the left attacking flank, but after Ezequiel Fryers’ injury in the first half and the resulting changes, he struck up a head-to-head battle with Chiriches that he generally did well in.
Sheriff are third in the group with two points from three matches and will travel to Tottenham for the reverse fixture on November 7. Spurs will face Hull in both the Premier League and League Cup and travel to Everton before the rematch.