Football: Soldado ends barren spell as Spurs stay in hunt

Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado (left) scores against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London, on Mar 2, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado (left) scores against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London, on Mar 2, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Roberto Soldado ended his personal goal-drought and kept Tottenham Hotspur's fast-fading hopes of a top four place alive with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Cardiff City at White Hart Lane.

Sunday's win helped consolidate Tottenham's hold on fifth place, although they remain four points adrift of Manchester City, who lie fourth having played two games fewer than Spurs.

"It's a huge ask (qualifying for the Champions League) but one we have to believe in," Spurs manager Tim Sherwood told Sky Sports. "It is more difficult than ever because there is so much competition at the top of the table but we are looking upwards rather than behind us."

For Cardiff, a seventh successive away league defeat leaves Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's side second bottom, three points off safety, and capped a week in which Malaysian owner Vincent Tan again reiterated his threats to sell the club if supporters continued to object to his regime.

Soldado had been under growing pressure after failing to score in eight previous games, amid reports his spell at Tottenham could end after just one season.

But the striker justified the faith shown in him by Sherwood - whose own future has been thrown into doubt after Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal was linked with a move to White Hart Lane - with the decisive first-half goal that built on the midweek Europa League victory over Dnipro.

That European win had lifted spirits following the disappointing defeat at Norwich that dealt a severe blow to the north London club's hopes of securing a place in next season's Champions League.

The arrival of Solksjaer as successor to the popular Malky Mackay has failed to transform Cardiff's fortunes, although the new manager received the backing of Tan earlier this week.

And former Manchester United striker Solskjaer said he was heartened by Cardiff's performance in north London.

"It was a big improvement; that was a team, a team who believed in what we are doing who had a real go," he said. "It was a poor goal to concede, it was our free-kick and a counter attack against us. But those are those margins that go against you, but we will get them turned."


Andros Townsend led the move, collecting Hugo Lloris's clearance and running powerfully up the centre of the pitch before finding Adebayor on the left hand of the Cardiff area.

The Togo striker held the ball up then squared for Soldado, who had been allowed to find space ten yards out despite the presence of three Cardiff defenders, and the Spaniard took one touch before volleying past David Marshall.

The reaction of the Tottenham players as they mobbed their teammate spoke volumes about the build-up of tension during Soldado's goal-drought.

"We have been wishing it in for him," said Spurs captain Michael Dawson. "He's settled in well and we are just delighted to see him score."

But the home side were almost brought back down to earth immediately afterwards when Steven Caulker headed Craig Bellamy's corner against the bar from close range.

That, though, would prove to be one of the last occasions Cardiff managed to threaten the Spurs goal as the urgency inexplicably disappeared from their game.

The second half was even less enthralling than the first, although Spurs believed they should have had a penalty when Declan John tripped Aaron Lennon on the edge of the box.

Referee Phil Dowd adjudged contact took place outside the area and Townsend fired the resulting free-kick tamely wide, summing up the latter part of the game.

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