Tottenham Hotspur 4 Cardiff City 0: Keane and Lennon send Bluebirds packing

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The Independent Football

The romance of the FA Cup? The devilment more like. A piece of cunning by Robbie Keane, stretching the offside laws to their limit, allowed Spurs to breach Cardiff City last night and paved the way to a comprehensive dismantling of the Welsh side in this third-round replay.

Spurs now meet Southend United, whom they beat to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup. A run in the senior knock-out competition is the least to expect. The threat they carry with Keane linking with the elegant power of Dimitar Berbatov - and Aaron Lennon providing frightening directness - can make them a real force. And they also have Jermain Defoe.

It was Lennon who scored that first goal. But it was Keane's role in it that provoked debate. A free-kick by Cardiff's Stephen McPhail was cleared to Berbatov and he released Lennon. The winger rapidly fed Didier Zokora who slid a pass forward and towards Keane who was offside but allowed the ball to run, opening his arms to show he was not intending to intervene. It distracted the Cardiff defenders who stopped. Lennon did not, the ball reached him and he calmly steered it beyond goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

"In today's game it's technically not," said the Cardiff manager, Dave Jones, of the was it/wasn't it offside. "So I don't feel hard done by. But I do feel angry with my players who switched off. It was a lazy switch-off. For the 25 minutes up until then we matched them."

After that there was no contest, Spurs rattled in two more goals before half-time and another late on to condemn Cardiff to a 13th game without a win. For Spurs this cup football is a joy. Including the Uefa Cup they have now won 10, drawn once and scored an impressive 24 goals. Little wonder manager Martin Jol was purring afterwards.

He was relieved, also. This was a perfect antidote to the last two home games, losses to Liverpool and Newcastle. "We were a bit worried," Jol admitted. "We had to win this." That second defeat led to Jol questioning, in his programme notes, whether his squad had enough leaders.

It was Keane who led last night. Recalled to the team and wearing the captain's armband in the absence of still injured Ledley King, he provided a bit more guile. It meant the goalless draw at Ninian Park 11 days ago was quickly banished.

Indeed in the opening moments Keane fed Berbatov who whistled a shot narrowly wide. That proved a sighter. Soon shots were raining in on Alexander - unfortunately he was not up to the task. He fumbled a Steed Malbranque shot and then watched as Berbatov wonderfully spun away from Glenn Loovens to cut the ball back. Keane swept it in from six yards.

A third goal was inevitable and Benoit Assou-Ekotto burst down the left before slipping a pass to Malbranque. On the area's edge the midfielder lashed a right-footed shot inside the near post with Alexander woefully stranded.

Spurs, for whom Tom Huddlestone brilliantly dictated the tempo, eased up for a while but with the arrival of Defoe they increased the pace again. He darted into the area and relayed the ball to Keane who, with a clear sight of goal, stumbled. Then Hossam Ghaly barrelled through a challenge and shot from distance. Alexander spilled the ball to Defoe who nudged it over the line for his 14th goal of the season.

"Tottenham's a library," taunted the visiting fans. Maybe. But their team was still taught the lesson.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora (Tainio, 75), Malbranque (Ghaly, 65); Keane, Berbatov (Defoe, 70). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Lee.

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Alexander; Gilbert, Purse, Loovens, McNaughton; Ledley, Scimeca, McPhail, Flood (Cooper, 56); Chopra (Ferretti, 75), Thompson. Substitutes not used: Forde (gk), Johnson, Campbell.

Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).

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