FC Sheriff 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers: Vertonghen, Defoe
Team: Lloris; Naughton, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Fryers (Dawson); Dembele, Sandro (Holtby), Lennon, Eriksen, Lamela (Chadli); Defoe Subs: (unused) Friedel, Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Soldado
Andre Villas-Boas selected a strong team with seven changes from the team which won at Villa Park last weekend. Only Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Vlad Chiriches and Sandro were retained with Aaron Lennon making his first start since the opening day of the season. Emmanuel Adebayor was among the substitutes.
Tottenham led at the interval through a goal scored from their first corner after 12 minutes. Spurs had endured a difficult opening as FC Sheriff threatened with pace on the break, looking to get behind the Spurs defence as often as possibly. They were prepared to allow Tottenham to have possession in their own half but as soon as it came into their half they pressed quickly giving Spurs no time on the ball. Whenever they picked up a loose ball they broke with pace but were caught off-side frequently.
The Spurs goal came following a cheeky piece of defending by Vlad Chiriches. Facing his own goal in midfield and with a striker bearing down on him, he flicked the ball over his head and turned to set Spurs on a forward move. Lennon won the corner which Erik Lamela took short to Christian Eriksen who sent in the cross. Vertonghen, captain on the night, was unmarked and out-jumped the defenders with the ball going of a FC Sheriff player.
It looked as if Spurs’ lead was going to be short-lived as three minutes later, Sheriff broke through, Luvannor went round Lloris on the edge of the area and fired towards an empty goal. Chiriches, though, didn’t give up and recovered to make a fantastic last-ditch clearance on the goal-line.
After 19 minutes a flick on by Eriksen found Lennon in space behind the Sheriff defence. He took the ball into the area and faced one-on-one with the goalkeeper looked set to score but the keeper got his foot to the ball to save his shot. Spurs enjoyed a period of patient possession but the home side responded and Spurs were fortunate to survive twice in three minutes when Kadu had a goal disallowed for off-side and Isa then shot wide when through on goal after 32 minutes.
Michael Dawson replaced Zeki Fryers who went off injured. Kyle Naughton went to left back and Chiriches went to right back. Sheriff still looked dangerous but were off-side too often. A quick break saw Jermain Defoe shot over after 35 minutes but Luvannor shot over following a quick free-kick. In the final minutes of the half a run by Chiriches set up Eriksen who lifted the ball over the defence to Defoe but he was unable to control the ball.
After the interval Sheriff continued to threaten on the counter-attack but Spurs started to have greater control, slowing the tempo of teh game as the home team were unable to maintain the intensity of their first half display. The off-side flag continued to come to Spurs rescue but after 6 minutes, Eriksen played a ball through to Defoe but his shot was weak and easily collected by the goalkeeper. A quick break at the other end saw Lloris out quickly to clear on the edge of his area.
Spurs were continuing to find it difficult to make a breakthrough as there was little movement in midfield making it difficult for the player in possession and when a player did receive the ball he had two players in close attendance.
On 55 minutes Sandro had a shot blocked for a corner but Sheriff broke quickly to threaten the Spurs goal. With an hour played Nacer Chadli replaced the disappointing Lamela and six minutes later Lennon ran at the Sferiff defence from a central position and had a shot which beat the goalkeeper but came off the post. Dawson blocked a shot as Sheriff threatened. Chiriches went on a run from right back and shot over with Lennon free on the right.
In the 75th minute, Defoe made victory secure with the second goal. He received a short pass from Chadli and raced towards goal shooting from 25 yards the ball deflected off a defender and into the net. It was Defoe’s 22nd goal in European games for Spurs, equalling Martin Chivers’ record.
This gave Spurs the cushion and comfort they needed and enabled them to play out time as the FC Sheriff players faded although they did manage to cause a few nervy moments in the Spurs defence before the final whistle. With ten minutes to play, Isa who was most to blame for getting caught off-side, got through on goal but with only Lloris to best he put his shot wide. Eriksen created another opportunity for Defoe but he failed to connect with his shot and the goalkeeper gathered safely, Defoe having been off-side anyway.
Tottenham took the three points, have a 5 point lead over Anzhi in the Group and kept another clean sheet. Job done – there were a number of near misses, they had their moments of good fortune but a win is a win. A victory over FC Sheriff in the return game at White Hart Lane will ensure their qualification for the knock-out stages with two matches to spare.