The calmness with which Defoe stroked the ball home typified a striker in supreme confidence, and not one whose position at the club was in doubt, as was the case all summer.
"He [Defoe] is performing at the top level," Villas-Boas said.
"He has had his opportunities this season and he is taking them tremendously.
"This summer I had conversations with him and his agent and told them that I am a person who respects people who are performing well and he deserved a lot of credit for the goals he scored last season.
"This season he is facing tough competition from [Emmanuel] Adebayor and Clint Dempsey, but he keeps on performing. The competition is making him tick."