Tottenham Hotspur were missing five key players, but they still needed a response after Wednesday’s loss to Barcelona in the Champions League. The response came, but it wasn’t anything impressive.
Spurs beat Cardiff City 1-0 at Wembley on Saturday with Eric Dier scoring the game’s only goal. The Bluebirds have yet to win a match since returning to the Premier League, but they didn’t let anything come easily for Tottenham.
Injuries to Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele, Serge Aurier, Dele Alli, and Jan Vertonghen didn’t give Mauricio Pochettino as many options for his lineup as he usually has. Moussa Sissoko came into the team, as did Danny Rose. Dier also returned after he started the Barcelona match on the bench.
The weather at Wembley looked like it might favor the Welsh side, and in truth the rain might have bothered Spurs a bit.
Set-pieces have been cruel to Tottenham this season, but it was an early set-piece that allowed them take the lead. Davinson Sanchez headed a Kieran Trippier corner into the ground and into a Cardiff defender. The loose ball sat perfectly for Dier, who smashed the ball past a helpless keeper.
Spurs seemed like they were taking control after the opener, but Cardiff came back into the game.
The Bluebirds best chance came in the 23rd minute when some sloppy play from the home side allowed Jacob Murphy a breakaway on goal. Hugo Lloris was late coming out of his net, but Toby Alderweireld was there to save the day with a goal-line clearance after Murphy had chipped Lloris.
Neil Warnock’s team then came close once again on a Sol Bamba header from the resulting corner.
Lloris redeemed himself a bit on 41 minutes when he successfully played his role of sweeper keeper. The Frenchman came off his line quickly and made himself big to smother Callum Paterson, who was bearing down on goal.
Tottenham could’ve made it two just before halftime. Son Heung-Min danced into the box and cut a pass back for Lucas Moura, but the Brazilian’s shot was just wide of the post.
Pochettino’s squad had the lead, but it had not been anything close to a convincing performance. He clearly told the players that at halftime as they came out with a different level of intensity for the second period.
Spurs nearly extended their lead right away. Harry Kane’s header in the box was saved by Neil Etheridge and the rebound fell right to Moura. Moura made great contact, but his shot was stopped incredibly by Sean Morrison on the goal-line.
It seems like there is always drama when Mike Dean is refereeing, and the 58th minute brought that drama. Joe Ralls was shown a red card when he cynically hacked Lucas down to stop a counter-attack. The Cardiff defender made no attempt to play the ball and Mike Dean sent him for an early shower.
Spurs struggled to put the game away despite the Bluebirds being short-handed. They almost conceded another one of those pesky free-kicks a few minutes after the red card, but this time Lloris did well to save at his post.
xG map for Spurs - Huddersfield. Tottenham weren't great, but good enough to win and they survive an injury crisis into the international break. pic.twitter.com/I0cIdZ4cbh— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 6, 2018
Cardiff resorted to soaking up pressure and hitting long balls forward when they could. They had a few forays into the Tottenham end, but didn’t create any more clear-cut chances.
Erik Lamela, Victor Wanyama, and Ben Davies were the reinforcements chosen from the bench, with the latter coming on for an injured Danny Rose.
There were some moans from the crowd at Wembley as Spurs kept the ball near the corner flag to see out a game against a team in the relegation zone. The frustration is understandable, but at least the job was done. Spurs are up to third place for the time being.
Next up is an international break that comes at a good time for a squad in the midst of an injury crisis.