2018 ended poorly for Tottenham Hotspur, but opening half-hour goals from Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Son Heung-Min meant their new year got off to a roaring start. Spurs cruised to a 3-0 win over Cardiff at the Cardiff City Stadium, their sixth win in seven matches over the crammed holiday period.
With Spurs playing their fifth match in 13 days, many people thought that this might be a match where Mauricio Pochettino would make wholesale rotational changes to his starting lineup. Nope! Spurs rolled out for the second straight match with DESK — Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and Harry Kane. Their most powerful attack, yes. But also one with a LOT of miles on the tires in a very short period of time. Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose started at fullback, with Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in the center of the pitch. Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez started in the heart of the defense.
The game started off with a bang, and a very quick goal in just the third minute. Harry Kane got the move started with a pass out to Kieran Trippier on the right side of Cardiff’s box. Trippier’s cross caromed off the knee of Harry Kane and past Neil Etheridge into the net. Just like that, Spurs were up 1-0 on the road. It was Kane’s Premier League leading 14th goal of the season.
Cardiff, however, tried to come back quickly and had a couple of decent spells of possession, including a cross to the back post that forced an excellent headed clearance from Danny Rose.
But Spurs took advantage of more shambolic Cardiff defending in the 12th minute. Son Heung-Min played a lovely square ball to a rushing Christian Eriksen in the box. Christian had time to take a touch and struck a low ball through three Bluebird defenders and bast Etheridge to make the score 2-0 inside the first quarter hour.
Spurs got their third of the half in the 27th minute from some excellent team passing. Moving forward at pace, Moussa Sissoko laid off for Christian Eriksen. Christian one-touched to Sonny, who made quick work of Etheridge to put Spurs up 3-0.
Cardiff never really had an answer after that, though they tried, moving up the pitch and probing Spurs’ defense whenever possible. Neil Warnock’s men had the most success when they countered at pace — just after the half-hour mark Bobby Reid looked like he got through on goal but was flagged as offside.
It was a dominant half from Spurs who carried a 3-0 into the break at Cardiff City Stadium.
With Cardiff down big, Neil Warnock opted for a more offensive halftime substitution, bringing on Junior Hoilett for Josh Murphy. Tottenham, as is their usual practice, did not make any halftime changes.
With a big lead, Tottenham took their foot off the gas to start the second half. They remained in firm control of the ball, but didn’t push forward as emphatically. Junior Hoilett almost made them pay for it — a looping cross into the box took a bounce and Hoilett got a header on target over Toby Alderweireld. Thankfully, Hugo Lloris saw the danger and was there to make his first save of the match.
Cardiff’s Sol Bamba picked up the match’s first yellow for a hard challenge on Sonny, who went down clutching his ankle but ended up okay.
A knock to Victor Camarasa forced Warnock to make a second change in the 58th minute, bringing on Cardiff academy graduate Joe Ralls on as his sub.
Spurs’ first real chance in the 2nd half came in the 61st minute on another fast break. Harry Winks passed to Kane on a Tottenham fast break. Dele was making a run and looking for the return pass, but Kane opted to shoot, lofting it well over the bar.
Tottenham nearly got their fourth on a 4-v-1 attack in the 66th minute, but Etheridge somehow got his shoulder to Sonny’s shot inside the 6 yard box, and the chance was wasted.
Cardiff made their third sub before Spurs made their first, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing coming on for Reid. Immediately after the sub, Cardiff almost got their consolation goal after a cross went off the back of Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson, but Hugo was right there to gather it in.
Spurs made their first change at 75’, bringing on 18-year old Oliver Skipp as a sub for Son, and later brought on Fernando Llorente for Dele Alli in the 85th minute.
And that was pretty much all of it — Junior Hoilett had a shot parried away by Hugo that was flagged as offside, but otherwise the second half was about as pedestrian as the first half was exciting. The final score was 3-0.
- Harry Kane is now your Premier League scoring leader, with 14 goals. If my math is correct, he’s also now just two goals behind Cliff Jones who sits at #4 on Tottenham’s all-time goal scorer’s list.
- There isn’t a whole lot to say about this match. Spurs jumped out to an early lead, were pretty much dominant from the opening kick, and cruised. Cardiff aren’t very good.
- We can argue about Poch’s substitutions (or lack thereof) but in reality, Spurs had their foot off the accelerator for the entirety of the 2nd half. They were basically jogging. You’d have to think that there will be wholesale rotation against Tranmere on Friday, but that was about as low-impact and stress free a match as you can ask for.
- This was a game that suited the New and Improved Moussa Sissoko™ very well. Cardiff were barely interested in contesting the midfield, and Sissoko had a nice match.
- Dele REALLY wanted a goal to complete DESK. It was kind of amusing watching him get angry when balls weren’t passed back to him or when he missed chances.
- Nice to see Skippy get an extended run-out. My guess is he starts in midfield at Tranmere.
- Including this match and the NLD on Dec. 2, Spurs took 18 points from 24 possible — not too shabby, folks.