Tottenham strolled to a comprehensive win at Cardiff City to climb back up to second place in the Premier League table.
Spurs ruthlessly exposed the hosts’ flimsy defending to race into a 2-0 lead after just 12 minutes – Harry Kane bundling in a fortuitous early opener and Christian Eriksen nestling a fine strike into the bottom corner.
Son Heung-min added a third before the break and, from that point, the untroubled visitors seemed to ease off a little.
Cardiff at least registered their first efforts on target in a low-key second half but the damage had already been done and they remain 16th in the table, three points clear of the relegation zone.
By contrast, a sixth victory from seven league matches closes the gap between Spurs and leaders Liverpool to six points, with the Reds away at third-placed Manchester City on Thursday.
And although the home side were barely in this contest, such a handsome margin of victory and convincing performance was timely for Tottenham, who had suffered a shock defeat at home to Wolves in their previous outing.
Spurs’ title tilt back on track
Successive thrashings of Everton and Bournemouth had added weight to the notion Spurs are genuine contenders to win the Premier League, even if Mauricio Pochettino had described his side as “intruders” in the title race.
Their growing sense of optimism was punctured by that loss to Wolves – but this display suggested it was a mere aberration.
Whereas Wolves were disciplined and resolute, on this occasion Spurs were presented with a charitable Cardiff defence – which they punished clinically.
The opening goal arrived inside three minutes and in farcical fashion, Kane playing the ball wide to Kieran Trippier, whose cross fell to Sean Morrison but the Cardiff defender only succeeded in playing the ball on to Kane’s knee before it bobbled into the net.
It may have been a lucky strike for the England captain but it was also a significant one, as it meant he has now scored against all 28 of the Premier League teams he has faced.
Tottenham had countered swiftly and accurately to set up that opportunity, and it was a similar tale for their second goal as Son teed up Eriksen, who deftly shimmied into a shooting position before arrowing a low effort into the bottom corner.
Son, who has been in sparkling form of late, then got in on the act as he received a pass from Kane and finished neatly from a tight angle.
At this point, Spurs looked set to hand Cardiff a hammering heavier than either of the two they had dished out to Everton and Bournemouth, but instead Pochettino’s men showed a little mercy.
After a congested festive period of fixtures, it may have been an effort to conserve their energy, perhaps a wise approach with far tougher challenges to come.
Cardiff’s survival bid takes a hit
If Spurs travelled to south Wales still reeling from their loss against Wolves, Cardiff entered this match with morale arguably as high as it ever has been this season.
Victor Camarasa’s brilliant added-time winner at Leicester had given the Bluebirds their first away victory of the campaign in dramatic fashion on Saturday, ensuring they started 2019 three points clear of the relegation zone.
However, they never looked like extending that cushion here.
Before this fixture, Cardiff had lost their previous 14 games against the Premier League’s big six sides and conceded 45 goals in the process, 22 of which had come in their six defeats this season.
It was hardly a surprise, therefore, that the Bluebirds were cut to ribbons by Spurs.
But even with the visitors’ might in mind, Neil Warnock will still have been irritated by the submissive nature of the defending from his side, who had kept clean sheets in both their previous matches against Leicester and Crystal Palace.
With Huddersfield the next visitors to Cardiff City Stadium on 12 January, Warnock will drum into his players the importance of that fixture to ensure there is no repeat.
Man of the match – Christian Eriksen
We shot ourselves in the foot – manager reaction
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock: “When we start off like that we shoot ourselves in the foot. All the planning goes out of the window. The goals were disappointing but they were too good for us in the first half. But that’s life and you move on.
“I was pleased we hung in there because it’s easy to throw the towel in when you’re 3-0 down to a team like this. Four points in three games over a difficult period is good really.
“We have had a great season so far. Players were told what they were doing and two or three let me down a little in that respect defensively today. We were playing for pride in the end.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “We felt disappointed (after Wolves loss) and we wanted to show our energy from the beginning. After 20 minutes we showed how we wanted to play and were clinical.
“We suffered with four games in 10 days. I want to congratulate the players. I’m so pleased with the effort.
“Today we showed great energy and maturity that we want. Now we need to keep that level and consistency throughout the season if we want to be there and fight for big things.
“It’s a crazy fixture (list) – its normal that in some games we can drop our mental energy. We were so relaxed and kept calm, it was so important. We showed Wolves was just an accident.
“The most important thing is to find a way to be consistent if we want to be a contender. We need to believe more in us. We are in a process of doing fantastic things.”
Son’s impressive streak – the best stats
- Spurs have won each of their four Premier League games against Cardiff – only Manchester City (seven v Bournemouth) and Arsenal (six v Reading) have a better 100% record against an opponent in the competition.
- Spurs are still to play out a draw in the Premier League this season (W16, D0, L5); just the ninth occasion in top-flight history that a team has gone 21 or more games into a season without drawing.
- Cardiff have the same number of points this season (18) as they did after 21 games of their only previous Premier League campaign (18 in 2013-14), however they do have a worse goal difference this term (-22).
- Cardiff have conceded 25 goals across their games against the ‘big six’ teams in the Premier League this season; the most of any side.
- No player in Premier League history has scored more goals on New Year’s Day than Tottenham’s Harry Kane (five – a joint-high with Andrew Cole and Steven Gerrard).
- Son Heung-min has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last eight starts for Spurs in the Premier League, scoring eight and assisting another three.
- Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen has scored 19 goals from outside the box in the Premier League; the most of any player in the competition since his debut (September 2013).
Both sides are in FA Cup action in their next fixtures. Tottenham travel to play Tranmere Rovers on Friday, 4 January (19:45 GMT) while Cardiff are away at Gillingham a day later (15:00 GMT).
Tottenham then play Chelsea in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg on 8 January. Their next league game is against Manchester United on 13 January.
Cardiff’s next league match is at home against relegation rivals Huddersfield on 12 January.