Erik Lamela played his best match in a Spurs shirt, and Jermain Defoe broke Martin Chivers’ club goalscoring record in Europe as Tottenham beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 Thursday to remain atop Group K in the Europa League Group Stage.
Tonight's victory means we're through to the knockout stage of the Europa League.— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 7, 2013
Coming off a 2-0 win away to the Moldovan side, Spurs began the encounter confidently, and by the half-hour mark, they had seen their rate of possession rise to nearly 80 percent.
But they were also struggling to create meaningful opportunities in the attacking third—Mousa Dembele’s shot from distance and Etienne Capoue’s hopeful effort representing their only noteworthy chances of the period.
Spurs fans chant: "Let's pretend we've scored a goal!". Then start cheering wildly. The chant: "1-0 to the Tottenham". Different.— Darren Lewis (@MirrorDarren) November 7, 2013
Sheriff, meanwhile, came close to opening the scoring in the 25th minute after Isa, having been put through by Ricardinho, drilled a shot off the outside of the upright.
It was a similar story after the restart, as Spurs huffed and puffed to make anything happen in the Sheriff goalmouth. But on the stroke of 60 minutes, Lamela, who had heretofore struggled to make an impression, began a neat one-two with Christian Eriksen that he finished by slotting delicately inside the near post.
Seven minutes later, Spurs had their second, and Defoe had the club’s European goalscoring record.
After Lamela had drawn a penalty inside the 18-yard box following a dangerous, swerving run, Defoe confidently took the resulting spot-kick and gave his side a measure of insurance.
They’d need it.
In the 72nd minute, Sheriff pulled a goal back—Cadu’s initial effort having been parried by Brad Friedel into the path of Isa, who managed to squeeze his effort into the back of the net from a tight angle.
From there, Spurs sought to shut up shop and claim the three points, and after doing so, they found themselves headed to the Round of 32 thanks to a perfect 12 points from four matches.
Key Player Grades
Erik Lamela: A+
Never mind for Spurs, Thursday’s performance might have been the best in his club career. Over the course of the 90 minutes, he touched the ball 120 times—by far the most of anyone on the pitch—and completed 87 percent of his passes while scoring once and executing 11 successful dribbles.
Mousa Dembele: A
The Belgium international pulled the strings in the centre of the park for Spurs Thursday, and by the final whistle, he had touched the ball 98 times and completed 90 percent of his passes. His presence once again ensured Spurs spent much of their time on the offensive side of the ball, and when they finally remembered how to score goals, it made his performance look all the more effective.
He didn’t get much service, but he thrived on what he got. He quite nearly opened the scoring in the first half, only to be denied by the woodwork, and then scored a nice goal midway through the second half to pull Sheriff back into the match.
Tottenham will host Newcastle Sunday and will return from the international break November 24 with a showdown away to Manchester City. Their next match in this competition will take place four days later at Tromso. Sheriff, meanwhile, will face a must-win scenario away to Anzhi Makhachkala the same day.
All statistics courtesy WhoScored.com.