Tottenham on brink of knockout stage after Sheriff win
By Andy Scott ,AFPPARIS -- Tottenham Hotspur closed in on a place in the Europa League knockout stages with a 2-0 win away to Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
October 26, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
It was a hard-earned win for Andre Villas-Boas' side, with Sheriff applying plenty of pressure, but ultimately the Premier League team's class shone through.
Villas-Boas made wholesale changes to the team that had beaten Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday but the visitors needed just 12 minutes to open the scoring.
On their first attack, captain for the night Jan Vertonghen headed home Christian Eriksen's cross to settle Tottenham down in the tricky tie in Transnistria, a territory that claims independence from Moldova itself.
A Sheriff side with a heavy African and Brazilian influence might have drawn level moments later but Vlad Chiriches made a stunning last-gasp clearance to stop Luvannor Henrique from scoring after rounding Hugo Lloris.
The hosts then had a goal disallowed but they remained very much in the contest until Jermain Defoe made sure of the win in the 75th minute with a deflected strike that saw him equal Martin Chivers' record of 22 European goals for Spurs.
“It was a great moment. I was delighted to see it go in because I didn't really have that many chances,” said Defoe of his landmark goal.
“It was an important win and it was always going to be difficult. They're a good side, really organised and didn't give us a lot of space.”
The north London club have the maximum nine points from three games in Group K and lead the section by five points from Anzhi Makhachkala, the Russians who beat Tromso 1-0.