When Lamela rolled the ball past the outstretched leg of Sheriff defender Marcel Metoua, shrugged off the tackle by Luvannor, swiftly cut the ball to his right foot, forcing a miscued tackle from Djibril Paye—there were two takeaways.
First takeaway: Lamela won the penalty, which Jermain Defoe converted to score his 23rd European goal for Spurs to surpass Tottenham great Martin Chivers, per Sky Sports.
Second takeaway: It was the defining moment when Lamela pulled himself out of a funk, ensuring whispers of the B word—bust—didn't expand into a discussion point.
Before you say "Quit overreacting—it's just Sheriff"...
In the last Europa League matchday, Lamela meandered about for 61 minutes in a 2-0 win over Sheriff, completing one dribble.
Prior to yesterday's 2-1 win over Sheriff, Lamela was showing so many bad signs.
His body language was negative, he wasn't taking on players when he was subbed on in the Premier League, and he choked from 12 yards out during the League Cup penalty shoot-out win over Hull City.
Lamela single-handily dismantling Sheriff is a turn in the right direction.
He reverted back to the Lamela of old, the version which prompted Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to break the club transfer record, spending £30 million on the Roma star to counterbalance the void left by Gareth Bale's departure to Real Madrid.
Lamela managed to beat five separate Sheriff players in take-on situations throughout the game as he amassed 11 dribbles from 16 attempts.
|Breaking Down Erik Lamela's Dribbling vs. Sheriff|
|Sheriff Player||Dribbled Past||Targeted|
There is no doubt Andre Villas-Boas should start Lamela in the right attacking midfield position against Newcastle.
You may think it's unfair that Andros Townsend, who has been rested for every single Europa League group game this season, will lose his starting place despite averaging 5.7 dribbles per league game, but there's a vital difference between him and Lamela.
Townsend is just a take-on specialist who lacks an end product, whereas Lamela isn't just a world-class dribbler but is also productive in the attacking half.
|Erik Lamela vs. Andros Townsend|
|WhoScored & Transfermarkt|
Take a look at the last four players who led the Premier League in dribbles per game.
|PLAYER||SEASON||DPLG||WHERE ARE THEY NOW?|
|Hatem Ben Arfa||2012-13||4.2||Still frustratingly inconsistent (2 goals, 1 assist in 9 games).|
|Junior Hoilett||2011-12||2.6||In the Championship with 'Arry.|
|Charles N'Zogbia||2010-11||3.2||£9 million bust at Aston Villa; nursing long-term injury.|
|Abou Diaby||2009-10||2.7||Spends more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.|
Townsend has had his chance.
In nine league games, he has only scored once from 40 shots and has yet to create a goal.
It is Lamela's time to shine, and this is a perfect situation for him to transition into his first Premier League start against a Newcastle team that have conceded the fourth most goals in the league.
This doesn't mean giving up on Townsend entirely.
He is a tremendously technical footballer, whose ability to beat opposing players at will makes him an ideal impact sub.
Townsend or Lamela? Lamela.
He isn't just a better player than Townsend but has a higher upside, possesses a better track record and is more likely to take up the mantle left by Bale.
Don't put too much stock in Lamela this season, because before he starred for Roma last season, he scored four goals in his first Serie A season. It will take time to adjust.
Even at 12 years of age, Lamela was aware of the language barrier.
"One day I like to play abroad, in England, France or Spain," Lamela said to Trans World Sport in 2004. "I prefer to play in Spain because the people speak my language over there."
This is why you need to give him the benefit of the doubt in his first season at White Hart Lane—he isn't like Christian Eriksen, who speaks fluent English.
Language aside, Lamela's start to the season was interrupted by the kidnapping of his brother (the ransom was paid and his brother, Axel, is fine).
Villas-Boas knows Lamela is a momentum player who once scored seven goals in six consecutive starts for Roma, which is why he must start against Newcastle.