Jermain Defoe broke Tottenham Hotspur’s European goal-scoring record on Thursday as he steered his side into the knockout phase of the Europa League with a tough 2-1 victory over Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol.
Spurs join Valencia, Red Bull Salzburg, Esbjerg fB, ACF Fiorentina and Dninpro Dnipropetrovsk in the last 32 who all booked their places with two matches still remaining in the group phase. Defoe’s clinical 67th minute penalty, which not only makes him the competition’s top scorer with five goals from four matches, also gave him 23 European goals, one more than former England international Martin Chivers. Chivers, who scored 13 goals in 24 matches for England, helped the side win the same competition in 1972 when it was known as the UEFA Cup.
“Some things are written, I couldn’t get a lot of space in the first half, but I just tried to stay patient and top of the list now, I’m delighted,” England striker Defoe said. “I saw Martin [Chivers] at half-time, he’s a legend and he just told me to get it so it’s special for me.”
Valencia, who won the tournament in 2004 and were twice beaten Champions League finalists, are also into the next round after a Sergio Canales’ goal five minutes from time gave them a 3-2 victory at Swiss side St Gallen.
Premier League club Swansea City blew a victory chance against Kuban Krasnodar for the second time when they conceded a last-gasp equalizer, but need only avoid defeat when they play St Gallen in their final game or beat Valencia at home in their next to ensure their passage to the knock-out stages.
Despite playing the last 15 minutes with 10-men following defender Xandao’s red card at the Kuban Stadium, the Russians netted two minutes into injury-time through Ibrahima Balde to earn a 1-1 draw.
Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Bony had given the Welsh visitors an early lead, but just as Djibril Cisse’s penalty at the Liberty Stadium had cost them a win last month, so too this time Senegal forward Balde’s clever lofted finish broke the Swans’ hearts.
Fiorentina, who lost the 1990 final against Serie A rivals Juventus, continued their progress by making it four wins out of four when two goals in the last four minutes from Ryder Matos and Borja Valero gave them a 2-1 win at Romanian side CS Pandurii Targu Jiu.
Austria Wien also cruised into next year’s knockout phase, despite a 2-2 home draw against Belgian club KRC Genk.
Denmark also have a representative in the draw, which will be made on Dec. 13, after Esbjerg edged Swedish neighbors Elfsborg 1-0 thanks to Mick van Buren’s winner.
Ukraine’s Dnipro are also through after brushing aside Portuguese club Pacos de Ferreira 2-0.
In a second Anglo-Russian clash, Rubin Kazan opened a clear gap at the top of Group D with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic. Full-back Oleg Kuzmin hit the winner midway through the first period after escaping down the right and finding acres of space behind the Wigan backline.
Wigan remain second after Belgium’s SV Zulte Waregem won 1-0 at NK Maribor of Slovenia.