LONDON: Goals from Jan Vertonghen and Jermain Defoe left Tottenham Hotspur on the cusp of the Europa League knockout stages as four other clubs maintained perfect starts on Thursday.
Fiorentina, Salzburg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Ludogorets joined Spurs on nine points from three games with a place in the last 32 beckoning.
Twice UEFA Cup winners Sevilla needed a late goal to take a point at Slovan Liberec but La Liga rivals Valencia continued their recovery after an opening defeat by thumping St Gallen 5-1.
Defoe, with his sixth Europa League goal in four games, equalled Martin Chivers’ club European record of 22 for Spurs with the second goal in a 2-0 win in Moldova over Sheriff Tiraspol.
Former England striker Chivers was part of Spurs’ UEFA Cup-winning side of 1972.
Spurs could have qualified for the last 32 with three group games still to play but needed Anzhi Makhachkala and Tromso to draw in the other Group K game. Anzhi won 1-0, though, to leave Spurs waiting a bit longer.
Vertonghen headed home Christian Eriksen’s 12th-minute cross and Defoe struck from 25 metres with 15 minutes remaining.
Substitute Victor Machin equalised two minutes from time as Sevilla salvaged a 1-1 draw against Slovan Liberec in the Czech Republic to stay top of Group H with seven points.
The hosts led through Michael Rabusic’s first-half goal but had goalkeeper Premysl Kovar dismissed on 78 minutes and Machin rounded his replacement Lukas Hrosso to level late on.
Valencia, UEFA Cup winners in 2004, ran riot in the first half against St Gallen at Mestalla, Argentine Federico Cartabia scoring two of four first-half goals.
The Spaniards moved on to six points in Group A, one behind Swansea City who conceded a penalty in stoppage time that secured Kuban Krasnodar a 1-1 draw in Wales.
Fiorentina, fresh from a remarkable fightback from 2-0 down to beat Juventus 4-2 in Serie A on Sunday, brushed aside Romania’s Pandurii 3-0 in Group E while Salzburg continue to impress.