Match ends, Sheriff Tiraspol 0, Tottenham Hotspur 2.
Tottenham Hotspur moved a step closer to the Europa League knockout stages with a hard-earned victory away to Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova.
Jan Vertonghen's header from Christian Eriksen's cross set Spurs on their way.
Vlad Chiriches produced a superb clearance to deny Henrique Luvannor an equaliser before Aaron Lennon hit a post on his first start for two months.
Jermain Defoe's deflected shot doubled the lead as Spurs made it three wins in three games in Group K.
The England international's 75th-minute strike moved him level with Martin Chivers's club record of 22 European goals.
Having disposed of Norway's Tromso and Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala without conceding a goal, Spurs knew a third group victory would confirm their place in the last 32 - if Anzhi's home clash with Tromso ended level.
It did not, but Anzhi's 1-0 win means Tottenham will reach the knockout stages if they defeat Sheriff at White Hart Lane on 7 November.
Villas-Boas will hope it is a more comfortable experience than the one he endured at the Sheriff Stadium.
The champions of Moldova have not won a group game in Europe for three years and must have feared the worst when Vertonghen beat captain Miral Samardzic in the air to power Eriksen's 12th-minute cross home, the Belgian's first goal since March.
Yet Vertonghen spent the rest of the half at the other end of the pitch as Sheriff put the Spurs defence under intense pressure.
The hosts would have been level in the 15th minute but for a superb piece of defending by Chiriches, the Romania international denying Luvannor an equaliser after the Brazilian rounded Hugo Lloris and rolled the ball towards an empty net.
Cadu, another Brazilian, had a goal ruled out for offside, Ismail Isa flashed the ball across the face of goal and Luvannor fired over the bar as the home side continued to press.
And there were anxious faces on the Spurs bench when Isa went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Sandro.
But Tottenham survived on a night when the result outweighed the performance - and it might have been more comfortable for Villas-Boas had Lennon marked his first start since the opening weekend of the season with a goal, twice going close to doubling Spurs' lead.
Defoe's goal confirmed the victory, though, and the Londoners reach the midway point of the group stage with a 100% record and yet to concede a goal.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas:
"The game could have easily gone to 1-1 as after we scored they had so many chances to level the score. They looked good on the counter-attack, had some great moments and we have to recognise that.
"A draw would be a fair result, but the second goal is always important in games like this.
"We were fortunate to get the second goal to kill the game, but it could have gone the other way."
Jermain Defoe on equalling Martin Chivers's club record of 22 European goals:
"It was a great moment. I was delighted to see it go in because I didn't really have that many chances.
"It's great to equal the record and I'd love to break it at White Hart Lane, that would be great."
- 21MoyalBooked at 60minsSubstituted forFurduiat 70'minutes
- 11Cavalcante Mendes
- 29Isa MustafaSubstituted forPaireliat 88'minutes
- 20de Fiori MendesSubstituted forGomes de Jesusat 84'minutes
- 90Henrique de Sousa
- 19Gomes de Jesus
- 33da Silva
- 35FryersSubstituted forDawsonat 34'minutes
- 30Guimarães CordeiroSubstituted forHoltbyat 76'minutes
- 12ChirichesBooked at 45mins
- 33LamelaSubstituted forChadliat 61'minutes
- 22G Sigurdsson
- Liran Liany
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Sheriff Tiraspol 0, Tottenham Hotspur 2.
Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Fernando (Sheriff Tiraspol).
Offside, Sheriff Tiraspol. Miral Samardzic tries a through ball, but Vadim Paireli is caught offside.
Foul by Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur).
Benjamin Balima (Sheriff Tiraspol) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Lewis Holtby (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Valentin Furdui (Sheriff Tiraspol).
Substitution, Sheriff Tiraspol. Vadim Paireli replaces Ismail Isa.
Attempt missed. Fernando (Sheriff Tiraspol) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Djibril Paye.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Kyle Naughton (Tottenham Hotspur) because of an injury.
Foul by Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur).
Valentin Furdui (Sheriff Tiraspol) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Sheriff Tiraspol. Fernando replaces Cadu.
Offside, Tottenham Hotspur. Lewis Holtby tries a through ball, but Jermain Defoe is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Ismail Isa (Sheriff Tiraspol) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Luvannor with a through ball.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Lewis Holtby replaces Sandro.
Attempt missed. Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Christian Eriksen.