Tottenham Hotspur 1 Cardiff City 0 match report: Roberto Soldado’s relief is clear to see after finally rewarding Tim Sherwood's faith
Spaniard had gone eight matches without a goal for Tottenham
White Hart Lane
Monday 03 March 2014
The relief surging through Roberto Soldado could not have been clearer. Having scored the goal that ultimately won this game, the Spaniard sunk his head into his hands and collected himself before taking the embraces of the swarming fans in the Park Lane stand, and his gleeful team-mates.
That goal was Soldado’s first for nine long and difficult weeks, during which time he had slipped out of the Tottenham Hotspur team, and the wisdom of paying £24million for him last summer had been questioned.
But there are still reservoirs of goodwill for Soldado here at White Hart Lane, not least from the fans, and Tim Sherwood started with him up front alongside Emmanuel Adebayor. Sherwood was rewarded for his faith with the goal that earned Spurs three more Premier League points, keeping them in fifth, five points clear of Everton.
Sherwood, who led the ovation for Soldado at the end, was as thrilled for him as anyone. “If I could have picked anyone to score the winning goal it would have been him,” the Tottenham manager said. “You could see how much it meant to him. We know what he’s capable of. He’s not given me any reason to leave him out. I’ve stuck by him and I believe he will come good. I just hope this is a platform for him to go on and score 20 goals between now and the end of the season.”
The goal came after 28 minutes, as Tottenham broke following one of Cardiff’s few forays forward. Andros Townsend surged through the middle and played the ball left to Adebayor. The Togolese striker paused then passed into the path of Soldado, who had ghosted away from Aron Gunnarsson and Gary Medel. Soldado – who, as Sherwood said, still “had a lot to do” – did not break his stride, the first cushion touch was delightful, the second clinical.
It was the sole moment of quality in an otherwise unremarkable game. Sherwood fielded an attacking team, with two strikers and two wingers, but they created little against a Cardiff team who were desperate to defend far better than they did when Hull City put four past them last weekend.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made six changes from that side, and switched to a 5-3-2 system which made them less permeable than they have been recently. Unfortunately for Solskjaer, Cardiff created even less than Spurs and they are still second from bottom, with at least four points to make up if they are to avoid relegation.
The visitors’ plan was to sit deep and play on the break, and, with the pace of Craig Bellamy, Fraizer Campbell and Fabio da Silva, it might have worked. Solskjaer was pleased with the overall performance and understandably so. “In the first half, we caused them massive problems on the counter at times,” he said. “I was pleased with the team effort, we looked like a team again, a proper team that played for each other.”
The Cardiff manager revealed that club owner Vincent Tan – who attended the match – had been in to talk to the players the night before the game, and that they appreciated his attention. “You can see the effect on the players, we were pleased to see him. This run-in requires every single one of us that has got a Bluebird heart, a Cardiff heart, everyone from fans, to players, workers in the canteen, laundry, up to Mr Tan, to stick together.”
Craig Bellamy fends off Tottenham's Ezekiel Fryers (GETTY) As hard as Cardiff worked, they did not look like scoring – beyond Steven Caulker’s header onto the bar straight after Soldado’s goal – and they have not hit the back of the net in the league for 400 minutes. “If you want to win a game you have to score goals. It’s about that dedication, that need, that urge to get on the end of crosses,” Solskjaer said.
Neither side, in truth, showed much of that for the rest of the game. Hugo Lloris had one real save to make, from Declan John at the near post, just before the interval. The second half was even quieter, with neither side offering much going forward. “It wasn’t great,” admitted Sherwood, “but our record is so poor after Europa League games to get over the line and win ugly is important.”
Harry Kane, who came on for Soldado, should have made it 2-0 in added time, running onto Nacer Chadli’s pass, but he could only shoot straight at David Marshall. Thanks to Soldado, it did not matter.
Tottenham (4-4-2) Lloris 6; Naughton 6, Dawson 8, Vertonghen 6, Fryers 6; Lennon 6, Paulinho 6 (Sandro, 72), Dembele 7, Townsend 6 (Chadli, 70); Soldado 8 (Kane, 83), Adebayor 6
Cardiff (5-3-2) Marshall 6; Fabio 5 (Jones, 72), Caulker 7, Cala 7, Turner 6, John 6; Medel 5, Gunnarsson 5 (Mutch, 63, 5), Kim 6; Campbell 6, Bellamy 7 (Daehli, 63, 6)
Match rating: 3/10
Man of the Match: Soldado
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