Tottenham Hotspur closed in on a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages with a 2-0 win away to Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
It was a hard-earned win for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, with Sheriff applying plenty of pressure, but ultimately the English 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 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.
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.
Elsewhere, there was frustration for another Premier League side as Swansea City were held to a 1-1 draw by Russian side Kuban Krasnodar in south Wales.
It looked like a beautifully-crafted Michu goal midway through the second half would be enough to give Michael Laudrup’s men a third win in as many games in Group A, especially as they had not conceded a goal in the section while their opponents had not scored.
But the visitors won a penalty in stoppage time when Senegal substitute striker Ibrahima Balde was brought down by goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel and French former Liverpool forward Djibril Cisse netted from 12 yards.
Last season’s English League Cup winners remain a point clear at the top of the section from Valencia, who romped to a 5-1 home win against St Gallen of Switzerland with Fede Cartabia scoring twice.
Like Swansea, Wigan Athletic drew at home against Russian opponents, although the FA Cup holders came from behind to hold Rubin Kazan 1-1 with Nick Powell cancelling out Aleksandr Prudnikov’s opener. NK Maribor beat Zulte-Waregem 3-1 in the other Group D match.
Meanwhile, Serie A side Fiorentina followed up their stunning weekend win against Juventus by keeping up their perfect start in Group E, Spanish winger Joaquin setting them on their way to a 3-0 victory against Romanians Pandurii in Florence. Elsewhere in Group E, Pacos de Ferreira were beaten by Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-0.
Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany made it three wins out of three in Group F by beating Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0, and Bordeaux beat Apoel Nicosia 2-1.
Lyon picked up a much-needed win, who beat Croatian side Rijeka 1-0 in Group I after a run of just one win in 12 games in all competitions. Clement Grenier scored the only goal of the game in the second half and Lyon are level on five points with Betis, who won 1-0 at home to Vitoria Guimaraes.
Betis’ city rivals Sevilla, who won the UEFA Cup in successive years in 2006 and 2007, needed a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic in Group H, while Freiburg and Estoril battled also battled to a 1-1 draw.
However, Group B featured a draw scoreless draw between Dinamo Zagreb and PSV Eindhoven, while Ludogorets Razgrad hit for the only goal of the group in a 1-0 win over Chornomorets.
In Group C, Esbjerg edged Elfsborg 2-1 and Salzburg snuck past Standard Liege 2-1.
Dynamo Kiev were too strong for Thun, who beat the visitors 3-0 and Racing Genk drew 1-1 with Rapid Vienna in Group G.
Serie A side Lazio finished goalless at Apollon Limassol, while Trabzonspor down Legia Warsaw 2-0 in Group J. Shakhter Karagandy held Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar to a 1-1 draw and PAOK Salonika beat Maccabi Haifa 3-2 in Group L.