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Jermain Defoe continues to light up Europe despite not starting in league

Sep 19, 2013, 10:15 PM EDT

Jermain Defoe is one of the best finishers in English soccer history. Are Toronto FC spending their money wisely? Getty Images

Despite not starting a Premier League match yet this season, Jermain Defoe doesn’t seem to have lost any form. He scored Tottenham Hotspur’s first two goals on Thursday on the way to a 3-0 win over Tromsø in the UEFA Europa League.

With his brace, Defoe pulled within two goals of Spurs’ European record, with 20 in his career in continental competitions for the club. Only Martin Chivers has scored more often in competitive matches against teams from other countries.

Defoe opened the scoring in the 21st minute. He picked up Erik Lamela‘s through ball after a streaking run across the face of the penalty area to the right side, chipping the ball back across goalkeeper Marcus Sahlman. In the 29th minute, he produced a mirror image, running across to the left and sliding a ball inside the far post after a pass from Lewis Holtby.

Granted, Defoe’s two starts of the year have come against Tromsø and Dinamo Tbilisi, neither of which come close to the quality Tottenham faces every weekend in the league, but four goals in 180 is still impressive. In 28 league minutes against Arsenal and Crystal Palace, Defoe has not scored yet, mostly overshadowed for the starting spot by Roberto Soldado.

His European performances have been enough to stay in the England set-up, as Roy Hodgson called Defoe up for World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine earlier in September, although he has not seen the field for his country since a substitute appearance in a 1-1 draw against Ireland in May.

“It’s frustrating when you have worked really hard in preseason,” he told The Daily Express. “A boxer trains for eight weeks before a fight, and then on fight night, he wants to be ready and perform, but he actually takes part. I went away [over the summer], worked hard and made sure I was fit. I felt sharp and stronger than ever, so it’s difficult when you are in and out of the team.”

Still, Defoe continues to deliver goals.

In an interview with the BBC that is set to air in full on Saturday, Defoe expressed an ironic sentiment for his frustration in sitting on the bench.

“You want to play every game,” he said. “You want to start games. You might come off the bench and score one goal, but you might start the game, play 90 minutes and score two.”

Players are told to take their opportunities when they come, and Defoe has done that well. Spurs manager André Villas-Boas can take comfort in knowing he has a solid option available if Soldado starts to waver at any point.

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