Since arriving at White Hart Lane this summer on a $42 million (£26m) transfer fee from AS Roma, Erik Lamela has struggled to find his way at Spurs, citing difficulty adjusting to life in England.
That adjustment period now appears to be over as the 21-year-old put on a lovely display Thursday night, scoring a goal and creating the deciding penalty that gave Tottenham a 2-1 victory over FC Sheriff to ensure the North London side a place in the knock-out stage of the Europa League.
Things got started the seventh minute when Mousa Dembele left two Sheriff defenders in the dust with a beasting run that ended in a 20 yard thump that Vjekoslav Tomic pawed wide.
Thirteen minutes later Spurs had a penalty shout when Lamela collected the pass from Kyle Walker and slipped into the right side of the box. With a slick double step-over Lamela left Djibril Paye on his heels with nothing to do but flail at the winger’s leg as he fell back. The kick-out sent Lamela off-balance and he eventually fell to the ground but not quickly enough to convince Danish referee Kenn Hansen to point to the spot.
In the 25th minute it was the Moldovan side’s turn as a galloping Ricardinho found Ismail Isa on the right side of the box and his effort careened just wide of the target thanks to a deflection from Spurs center-back Younes Kaboul.
In the 60th minute Lamela got his revenge when Walker found the 21-year-old on the right side of the pitch. With a cut inside Lamela found Christian Eriksen, who nipped a return ball off the back of Paye and it fell right to Lamela to shoot first time into the bottom corner.
With 25 minutes remaining Lamela was at it again, this time receiving the ball just outside the top of the box and using a dazzling roll-over to dance his way through four Sheriff defenders before being taken down by Paye for a surefire penalty.
Calm and collected, Jermain Defoe stepped to the spot and ripped his shot into the top corner to become Tottenham’s all-time leading goalscorer in Europe.
Sheriff proved themselves quite the plucky side, however, when in the 71st minute they cut the lead in half. Ismael Isa gathered a long goal-kick and found Cadu, whose shot was parried by Brad Friedel only for Isa to elevate and side-volley into the back of the net.
As time wound down Spurs nearly had their insurance goal when Lewis Holtby’s blast from distance was parried back to him by Tomic, only for the follow-up to bank off the sliding keeper’s chest. Tottenham saw the match out well and when the final whistle blew, Spurs had their fourth win in four matches, ensuring them a place in the Europa League knock-out stage.