Thursday's top Europa League performances

Sports Mole picks out four of the players who impressed on matchday three of the Europa League.

With the international break done and dusted, it has not taken long for European football to return. Thursday night was the turn of the Europa League and the competition is now halfway through the group stages.

There have been some surprise results, some poor performances and some excellent football on display. Here, Sports Mole selects some of the better performers on matchday three who helped their respective teams to important wins.

1. Jermain Defoe: Sheriff Tiraspol 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Defoe has been a loyal servant to Tottenham Hotspur for several years now and he has always managed to do the business. Spurs were not in desperate need for a win on Thursday night against Sheriff with two wins already under their belt, but Defoe's professional performance - with plenty of patience required as well - helped his side to put one foot into the next round.

It was a changed team from Andre Villas-Boas, but a strong one nonetheless and Defoe's task was to keep the Sheriff defence on their toes. He did that well and took his chance - albeit with the aid of a deflection - to grab the second goal on the night and secure the points. It was a particularly important goal for Defoe as he is now level with Martin Chilvers's European goalscoring record of 22.

Tottenham's Jermain Defoe scores the opening goal against Anji Makhachkala during their Europa League group match on October 3, 2013© AFP

2. Joaquin: Fiorentina 3-0 Pandurii Targu Jiu

It was a much-changed starting lineup that Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella put out against Pandurii Targu Jiu with his side having already taken six points from their opening two games. However, it was a side with players who had a chance to impress in order to get into the Viola side that has performed so well in Serie A thus far.

One such player was Spanish winger Joaquin, and he has certainly given Montella a thing or two to think about. It was important for Viola to have players even in a more fringe XI with the ability to unlock Pandurii and that is exactly what the Spaniard managed to do. His goal was one of pure quality. He spun off his man and got round a second player with a neat touch, before shimmying round the goalkeeper and tapping in. From that point in Pandurii were afraid of him and he was influential throughout.

3. Federico Cartabia: Valencia 5-1 St Gallen

Valencia made short work of St Gallen in their Group A clash, and it was an important win with several players stepping up on the night. None more so than Federico Cartabia. The 20-year-old is looking to become a regular part of the first team this season and this performance will not have hurt his cause. The Argentine started on the wing, but his tendency to roam meant that St Gallen simply could not mark him.

Fede Cartabia of Valencia CF celebrates after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Valencia CF and SFC St Gallen at Estadi de Mestalla on October 24, 2013© Getty Images

He scored twice, but in truth both were slightly fortuitous - the first a strike from range that took a huge deflection and the second courtesy of some poor goalkeeping. However, his willingness to be passed the ball and his effectiveness when he had it went a long way to Valencia's dominance on the night.

4. Alexander Meier: Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv

Before kickoff, these two sides were separated by just two points in the table and it had the potential to be close. However, the attacking players for the German side were far more effective than their Israeli counterparts and so Frankfurt took the win. Key to it, however, was Alexander Meier, who was the best player on the pitch.

Even before Tal Ben-Haim was sent off on 34 minutes Meier had had a big impact. He had a big say in the opening goal as his header was parried onto the post before being turned in by Vaclav Kadlec, and he was at the heart of everything Frankfurt did well. He rotated with Kadlec to the flank and up front and notched the second with a good header from a corner. His direct threat meant that Maccabi were rarely able to break from their half.

Frankfurt's Alexander Meier celebrates scoring the 1-2 by penalty during the German first division Bundesliga football match Eintracht Frankfurt vs. VfL Wolfsburg in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 18, 2013© Getty Images

Frankfurt's Vaclav Kadlec is congratulated by team mates after scoring his team's opening goal against Bordeaux during their Europa League group match on September 19, 2013
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