We triumphed after another excellent away performance, with Paulinho’s late strike making it Cardiff 0 Spurs 1.
Hugo Lloris escaped from another tricky handling situation, which could have put a different complexion on the game. As it stood, we created chances from the left, but ended up winning it from the right.
Cardiff set up and tactics
Malky Mackay lined his side up in their 4-2-3-1 formation with Gary Medel and Aron Gunnarsson playing the pivot in front of their defence. Medel was carrying out his usual role of screening the back four and as the pressure built was often dropping in to it. Gunnarsson had an indifferent game and wasted the Bluebirds’ best chance.
Ahead of them, Craig Bellamy was also a pivotal figure, being involved in two key moments, which we’ll look at in a minute. As highlighted in the Tottenham tactics, Cardiff heavily attack down his right side with Peter Whittingham cutting in from the left to make a second striker in the centre. Here both wide players operated in that same manner.
In the middle, Kim Bo-Kyung was attempting to pull the strings and link the play, whilst Frazier Campbell was looking to run in-behind our defence.
An early key to the game was Cardiff’s intense pressing from the off which caused the game’s biggest controversy. The Bluebirds were very quick to close down from the off, which saw Kyle Naughton put under heavy pressure from Craig Bellamy.
Across the pitch, Cardiff had shut down excellently, giving Naughton nothing but a back pass, which he under hit.
This allowed Frazier Campbell to jet on to the loose ball. Hugo Lloris came racing from his line and made a spectacular sweeping stop, but just as he did against Norwich, the Frenchman had handled the ball outside the box. This time though, he got away with what would have been a certain red card and this game could have had a very different perspective from what actually ensued.
Cardiff try to get in-behind our left back
If Bellamy’s and Cardiff’s early pressing was excellent, the second key moment for the Bluebirds’ involving the Welshman was not so good.
After some tenacious work to scrap for the ball in the centre of the park, Bellamy found Kim in space. The South Korean was making some neat passes to find the Welshman (and later Don Cowie) running in-behind in our left back zone and his audacious flick put Bellamy in.
With Peter Whittingham open in the centre after having cut in from the left, Bellamy’s intention to cross was far too obvious. Hugo Lloris was already moving out to cover the low squared ball across his area before the Welshman had even struck it.
The move was one of Cardiff’s infrequent attacks, but should have served warning of their intentions.
Later, Kim found Peter Odemwingie this time running in-behind in Kyle Naughton’s left back zone. His cutback this time found it’s target, but Aron Gunnarsson could only blaze over.
Cardiff crowding at corners
Despite wasting some good chances, Cardiff did put the ball in the net. I looked in the Tottenham tactics at how they crowd the goalkeeper, getting bodies in the six yard box at corners and here they were looking to do the same to Hugo Lloris.
Ben Turner may have been climbing all over Michael Dawson, but the congestion caused no end of problems for our keeper, who was left flapping at air in a similar manner to how Joe Hart was.
The effort was correctly chalked off, but the set up of five players in the six yard box with a man floating on the penalty spot to clean up any knock-downs, was an exact repeat of their two set-piece strikes against Man City.
Tottenham set up and tactics
Andre Villas-Boas lined us up in our now accustomed 4-3-3 formation. The midfield trio was once again the most interesting part, with each player having a defined role.
Against Norwich we’d seen Christian Eriksen drift in to central areas from the left of an inverted triangle with Paulinho doing the same from the right.
Here, Dembele played much more of a defensive role with Paulinho shuttling between him and Eriksen at the head of the trio. Whereas the Dane floated in from the left against Norwich, here he was playing more as a deeper-lying second striker, often bursting ahead of Roberto Soldado, as he looked to stretch the attentions of Gary Medel. His best effort was a rasping first time effort with his left foot that David Marshall just managed to get down to and claw the ball agonisingly role the wrong side of the post.
Attack the right, chances from the left
Before the game, I looked in the Tottenham tactics at how Cardiff’s opponents had success by attacking down their left to expose the Bluebirds’ right back zone.
As we’ve become accustomed to this season, our full backs are now a massive part of our attacking game and this was no different. Kyle Walker received the most touches of any Spurs players, as we heavily attacked down the right. The best chances though, arrived when the ball was out on the left.
Defending the inside left channel has been a problem area for Cardiff this season, as West Ham, Manchester City and Everton had all exposed this area, as I looked at before the match. Prior to the winning goal, most of our chances had all come through this zone from balls being played through their defence.
The best chance arrived via a through ball from Lewis Holtby to a cutting Paulinho, but the Brazilian saw his effort saved by David Marshall who seemed to be having one of those games where nothing was going to get past him.
Andre Villas-Boas has never been afraid to tinker with his side from the substitutes bench. After making numerous changes to influence and win games last season, here Lewis Holtby and Erik Lamela came on and proved to be the difference.
Since early on last season, I’ve talked about how we’ve tried to create goals the “Andre Villas-Boas way” and here we were doing just that. Getting runners in-behind so that they can either shoot or square a cross from a very short distance, often inside the penalty area.
Lewis Holtby was only on the field for a few minutes, but he supplied two such passes to get a runner in-behind.
First off it was Paulinho for a shot.
Second time saw him release Erik Lamela who had sneaked in-behind down the right.
The Argentinean’s short, squared pass found Paulinho for an audacious flick to win the game in the dying moments.
Cardiff 0 Spurs 1 conclusions
Another very good performance and another three points. The game may have had a very different outlook had Hugo Lloris been dismissed for handling the ball outside his area. As it stood, we dominated possession, the shot count and it could have been more but for an excellent display of goalkeeping by David Marshall.
Cardiff didn’t create many opportunities, but the ones they did were very good chances to score. Their pressing early on in the match caused us problems and lead to the highly controversial hand ball no call. However, we used this to our advantage and our control of the possession tired them out later on, as they had to work hard to contain our continual bursts of movement.
After attempting several through balls to get in-behind, Lewis Holtby’s telling pass found Erik Lamela in space. It was another example of AVB’s changes paying off, resulting in a late goal to gain or win the points.
Final score: Cardiff 0 Spurs 1.