Tottenham have proved taking Europa seriously is the best way,' says Andre Villas-Boas

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Panathinaikos 1

White Hart Lane

It was a flawed performance, the sort that earlier in the season would have cost them the points. Spurs lacked tempo or control. But, thanks to two late goals from Clint Dempsey – later given as an Orestis Karnezis own goal – and Jermain Defoe, they won 3-1.

Games are breaking for Spurs right now. This was their fourth straight win, the first time they have done so since February 2011. Before this run they had won one in six. There is a new mood at White Hart Lane, and there will be knockout European football here in February.

Andre Villas-Boas is delighted. This is an important competition to him. He owes some of his reputation to winning it with Porto in 2011. Because Lazio won in Maribor, Spurs could not win Group J but they finished comfortably in second. Villas-Boas was understandably proud of balancing progress with Premier League success, in a way Liverpool and Newcastle United have not.

"I am extremely happy," the manager said. "It has been said that both competitions cannot be taken seriously but we have proven it is perfectly possible. We are very proud to be in the last 32 and to show that you can embrace it in a different way."

Having finished second, Spurs could face group winners Lyons or Fenerbahce, or one of the demoted Champions League sides – including Benfica – a practice Villas-Boas opposes. "I think it's extremely unfair," the Spurs manager said. "You can't give a bonus to teams who have failed. Teams fail in the Champions League and are promoted to the Europa League – it's a massive bonus."

Tottenham cannot draw Chelsea quite yet – Villas-Boas said they would be "two magnificent games", if they ever occurred – but they can take heart from the fact that, unlike their London rivals, they are collecting results.

Neither of Spurs' two best players and pace-setters, Gareth Bale and Mousa Dembélé, started tonight. There was a lack of tempo all evening, as a well-organised and competitive Panathinaikos side – who needed to win to knock Spurs out – frustrated the hosts.

Villas-Boas put his faith in his forwards, pairing Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor for just the third time this season. The last time they started together it led to 17 brilliant minutes at Arsenal before Adebayor's red card cost Spurs the derby. Last night there was no such drama and not much danger. Although Adebayor and Defoe both scored neither was influential.

Clint Dempsey, coming in from the left wing, was Spurs' best attacking player. It was Dempsey's perfect through pass to Adebayor which set up Spurs' first goal. With 14 minutes left it was Dempsey's header which went in via the cross bar and the goalkeeper's back.

"We are extremely satisfied with his recent performances," Villas-Boas said of Dempsey, who had not always looked like a natural Spurs player. "It's down to him, he has managed to turn the page and adapted to a new position. He attacks, he defends, he commits himself to the team."

In between those two moments it was an even game, and before Spurs went 2-1 up they had been tense. After Defoe hit the post, Zeca equalised early in the second half, escaping from Kyle Naughton and heading in Nikos Spyropoulos' cross. From then on, Panathinaikos were on top and Toche should have put them ahead when Jan Vertonghen and Steven Caulker collided in the box.

Sensing the anxiety, Villas-Boas turned to Dembélé from the bench. Spurs scored their second with their first action after the change. Seven minutes later, with seven minutes left, Defoe ended the game, chipping Karnezis from Aaron Lennon's pass.

Man of the match Dempsey.

Match rating 5/10.

Referee P Gil (Poland).

Attendance 32,554.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?