The midfielder was forced to play as a centre-back at the Stadium of Light due to a number of injury problems for the North London club.
However, Villas-Boas believes that the Frenchman did himself proud as Spurs came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory.
"It was a great performance by Etienne," the Portuguese told the club's official website. "We had to shuffle the back four completely.
"Etienne deserves credit because he was looking for a performance like that and he gave it over the 90 minutes.
"We spoke to him during the week, we all want him to succeed here and great performances like that mean he's back on track. Everyone is extremely happy for him."
Spurs play their final Europa League group fixture at home to Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday knowing that they are already assured of a place in the next round of the competition.