Newly promoted Cardiff City hosted Tottenham in their 5th Premier League fixture of the season. Cardiff’s first two matches at home had given them a total of 4 points, including a surprising, yet deserved victory over Manchester City. Tottenham’s season had started in an effective fashion, with the only exception to the winning form being the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in the North London Derby.
Cardiff came into the tie unbeaten at home, and the side had proved to be a difficult team to face away from home, as Manchester City would know. The early signs of Tottenham’s visit indicated the same; Spurs were in control of the possession, managed to get shots at goal, but somehow found it frustratingly difficult to get the ball in the back of the net. Tottenham’s domination over the hosts was obvious from the beginning and it seemed as though a goal would be scored in only a matter of time. However, after a dominant first half by Tottenham that included a total of 13 shots, the game - to many people’s surprise - was still level at 0-0. The hero of the first half was undoubtedly Cardiff City goalkeeper David Marshall, who kept his side afloat in the midst of Tottenham’s search for a goal.
The second half brought with it no major changes in the pattern of the game. Tottenham kept the ball and continued to form an attacking threat, whereas the hosts defended with admirable unity and commitment, trying to hit their rivals on the break after winning back the ball. Tottenham’s defensive midfield duo Paulinho and Mousá Dembele, however, made sure that those attempts to attack didn’t lead to major difficulties at the back. The pair made a combined total of five successful tackles throughout the match and didn’t concede a single foul to give Cardiff a chance to do what they did so well against Manchester City: attack from the set-pieces.
However, at the other end of the pitch, Tottenham’s frustration grew bigger as the game went on, and despite the possession and shots, the visitors found it nearly impossible to break through Cardiff’s defensive wall. If they did, it was David Marshall who kept André Villas-Boas’ men frustrated in their search of a goal. The Scottish keeper made a total of 11 saves in the match, and it’s safe to say that it was his heroics that kept the home side from losing the match by a larger margin.
Finally, in the 3rd minute of extra time, Tottenham’s patience and effort did pay off. Summer signing Paulinho - who played a solid match in the midfield - scored the winner in the final minute to seal Spurs all three points and to leave the home fans disappointed. Having controlled the possession by 64% and firing a total of 29 shots - 12 of which were on target - the victory can be considered well deserved.
The win takes Tottenham to the second spot in the Premier League, as the team shares Arsenal’s tally of 12 points and the two North-London sides are only separated by goal difference and head-to-head matches on the top of the table. Cardiff dropped one spot down to 16th with 5 points, still staying above the relegation line. However, a lot of positives can be found for the hosts too.
Cardiff has faced two giants in the first five rounds - Manchester City and Tottenham - and three points from those two fixtures might well be more than originally planned or hoped for. Tottenham’s away win became the only stain in Cardiff’s unbeaten home record, and judging by the difficulties all teams have faced at the Cardiff City Stadium, the key to the side’s survival may well lie in a solid form at home.
Tottenham’s situation in the other end of the table doesn’t look bad either, although the side still somewhat struggles to score goals. The new signings look to have adapted increasingly well, which surely pleases boss André Villas-Boas, who is building his puzzle one piece at the time. The newly formed midfield of Paulinho, Dembele, and Eriksen might take a while to adapt, but as the season goes on, one could assume that what looks fantastic on paper will turn out to look quite good in practice as well. In the meantime, as the adaption phase continues, the team seems to have found a winning form despite the occasional struggle, which should by all means give Villas-Boas the peace to build his team.
Written by Jen Evelyn