Tottenham edge past Cardiff with meek display on miserable day at Wembley
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Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Cardiff City 0
Tottenham Hotspur made it three consecutive wins in the Premier League with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium this afternoon, but it was a real game to forget for the hosts.
Spurs struggled for long periods and even though they played against 10 men for the last half an hour, following Joe Ralls’ sending off, they couldn’t add to Eric Dier’s eighth-minute opener.
Mauricio Pochettino would have been pleased with the three points, which moves the Lilywhites up to third temporally, but there was a lot to be negative about at full time.
The attendance was just fewer than half of what Wembley holds and Tottenham never got going against a side which will most likely be relegated come May.
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Still, with two weeks until their next match, Spurs at least go into the international break with a victory.
Pochettino made three changes to the team which lost 4-2 to Barcelona in Group B of the Champions League on Wednesday night.
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Ben Davies, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela all dropped to the bench while Danny Rose, Dier and Moussa Sissoko started.
Despite the midweek reverse, Spurs were looking to claim a third consecutive win in this season’s Premier League after a sticky start to September.
Cardiff, meanwhile, were without a victory since earning promotion to the top flight, but after the Lilywhites efforts against Barcelona, the Bluebirds were looking to catch the hosts slightly cold on a wet and miserable day in Brent.
It may have been the bad weather, the opposition or the general frustration at still not being in the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but there was a large amount of empty, red seats at Wembley as the teams made their way out onto the pitch.
City showed their ambition from the kick-off as Josh Murphy tried his luck, but saw his effort sail harmlessly wide of Hugo Lloris’ goal.
After a sluggish start, where Toby Alderweireld gave the ball away after Harry Winks hadn’t been looking when he received possession, Spurs began to build momentum.
Lucas Moura forced the first corner of the game in the seventh minute and Tottenham actually forced three in quick succession.
Even though Rose and Kieran Trippier failed to do much with the first two set-pieces, it proved third time lucky for the home side.
Trippier played the corner short to Moura and he set for the right-back to curl in from a dangerous angle.
Davinson Sanchez got his head to the ball and it deflected off Joe Bennett and landed perfectly for Dier to thrash home from a few yards out.
It was the versatile England international’s first goal for Tottenham in 18 months – since the 4-0 win over Watford on April 8 2017 at White Hart Lane.
After eight minutes, Spurs had the all-important opener and now it was about how they kicked on.
The answer was they almost didn’t as Harry Arter was given too much space outside the home penalty area and turned Sanchez, but his low effort was easy for Lloris.
Pochettino’s men then did go through the gears as a fine run by Moura presented a chance for Sanchez, but Neil Etheridge saved impressively in the 16th minute.
Brazilian Moura was in the thick of the action and dribbled past three Cardiff rivals three minutes later before earning a free kick.
He then tested Bluebirds goalkeeper Etheridge from 16-yards after Sissoko had cut the ball back to him following Trippier’s forward pass.
Following a sustained period of pressure on the Cardiff goal, the visitors responded and mounted some of their own waves of attacking play.
In the 23rd minute they should have equalised when Josh Murphy showed great pace to get away from Rose and Lloris’ slight hesitation allowed the attacker to chip over the Frenchman.
As the ball was rolling towards the goalline, Alderweireld kept a cool head to get back and clear for a corner despite the best efforts of Junior Hoilett.
The respite was brief for Spurs as from the resulting set-piece, Sol Bamba headed over at the back post.
Alderweireld then fouled Murphy near the corner flag and although nothing come of the cross, an uneasy feeling of unrest engulfed the home supporters as Tottenham couldn’t get the ball forward and had to pass around their back four for an extended passage of play.
Eventually Spurs did put together an attacking move, but Kane could only fire straight at Etheridge from distance in the 29th minute after good play by Moura.
A lull then occurred as Tottenham were sloppy yet again with their passing and City took the invitation to try and find a way back into the contest.
The Lilywhites managed to hold firm, however, and then the first half ended with a flurry of chances.
First Moura headed over on the stretch after good play between Trippier and Sissoko in the 39th minute.
It was Cardiff’s turn to threaten next as Callum Paterson flicked a ball on for Murphy to chase, but Lloris bravely raced out of his goal and blocked to prevent a potential scoring opportunity.
Tottenham then should have grabbed a second on two occasions before the end of the first half, as Heung-min Son did brilliantly on the left to dribble past Bruno Ecuele Managa and Moura seemed to have a simple task of scoring from seven-yards.
He side-footed wide of the post though, and then Son wasted an opportunity of his own when he collected Sissoko’s pass, worked half a yard, but blazed over from just outside of the penalty area as it remained 1-0 to Spurs at the break.
It was far from vintage from Tottenham, but at the halfway point of the contest they crucially had the lead and just needed the second goal to wrap up the points.
As the second period got underway, the message from Pochettino was clear as his side looked for another goal immediately.
Less than a minute after the restart and it almost arrived when Rose bombed down the left and chipped in for Kane, who saw a header parried by Etheridge.
Moura latched onto the rebound and fired an effort towards goal, but Morrison got back superbly to clear off the line.
Kane tried his luck again in the 48th minute though his shot took a deflection and went wide of the Cardiff goal.
The visitors then threatened themselves four minutes later when after some pinball outside the area, which saw referee Mike Dean get in the way of a City pass, the away side had a shot on target through Arter, but it was comfortable for Lloris.
Controversy arose just before the hour mark when Neil Warnock’s team were reduced to 10-men in the 58th minute.
Moura put on the afterburners and Ralls cynically hacked down the Brazilian and caught him high on the leg.
Kane was furious and immediately barged into the Cardiff midfielder before grabbing him and referee Dean didn’t need much time before he pulled out a red card.
Warnock was furious on the touchline and shouted out ‘Well done Harry’ to the Spurs forward before tempers eventually settled down.
Tottenham now had a numerical advantage as well as a one-goal lead, but the latter was almost whipped out with 64 on the clock.
Arter’s free kick picked out Morrison at the back post and his downward header was set for the back of the net, but Lloris pushed onto the post and Alderweireld was able to clear the danger.
It felt like a big moment for the visitors and four minutes later Spurs wanted a penalty when Rose went down inside the area after slight contact by Ecuele Manga.
Nothing was given, however, and it only added to the frustration of the Cardiff fans, who had been phenomenal all afternoon.
Pochettino made a change with 18 minutes left as he searched for the game clinching second goal by introducing Lamela for Son.
Cardiff called for reinforcements too as Danny Ward and Kadeem Harris come on in the 78th minute for Paterson and Hoilett.
Unfortunately for the away side Ward was forced off with an injury seven minutes later and as Bobby Reid replaced him, floods of Tottenham supports headed for the exit doors.
It had been a forgettable afternoon for the hosts and their fans with the wet weather adding to an overall gloomy afternoon under the Wembley arch with Spurs’ play at times very disjointed and lacking quality.
More changes were made with Wanyama replacing the energetic Sissoko and then Rose pulled up after winning a free kick and had to be replaced by Davies.
These substitutes allowed more precious seconds to tick away as Tottenham eyed a third consecutive league win.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the 90 and it was greeted by groans from the home supporters.
The Cardiff fans were enjoying themselves though, and urging their team on to create one last opportunity.
A chance did arrive in the first minute of stoppage time when Kane put Moura in on goal, but Ecuele Manga covered well.
No further openings occurred for either side in the dying exchanges and a game which lacked real quality finished 1-0 to Tottenham.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Rose (Davies 88); Dier, Winks; Sissoko (Wanyama 85), Moura, Son (Lamela 72); Kane.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga,Walker-Peters, Llorente, Skipp.
Cardiff City: Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Camarasa, Arter, Ralls, Hoilett (Harris 78); Paterson (Ward 78, Reid 85); Murphy.
Unused substitutes: Murphy, Richards, Zohore, Reid, Gunnarsson.