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Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021
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Soldado ends barren spell as Spurs stay in hunt, Villa overcome Norwich

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace grabbed a late goal that could prove valuable come the end of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado celebrates his goal against Cardiff.
Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado celebrates his goal against Cardiff.

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.

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 the club’s owner Vincent Tan again attracted attention following an interview that highlighted the rift between him and some of the club’s supporters.

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 manager Tim 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 and Sherwood made just two changes to the team that had set up a meeting with Benfica.

- Much needed goal -

That meant Soldado was again given the chance to form a two-man attack alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, although when the Spaniard spurned two early half-chances it appeared he may be set for more disappointment.

That would change later in the first half, but before the Spaniard claimed his much needed goal, the home side were forced to survive some persistent early pressure from a Cardiff side keen to put last weekend’s 4-0 home defeat by fellow strugglers Hull City behind them.

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.

Tan maintained he had no regrets about making a number of controversial decisions, including changing the club’s colours from blue to red and was fiercely critical of Mackay’s tenure.

The Malaysian businessman also warned he would consider selling the club if supporter opposition to his regime continued.

Tan was in the stands at White Hart Lane and will have been satisfied by Cardiff’s early efforts, although they were unable to find a way through a Tottenham defence well-marshalled by Michael Dawson.

And frustratingly for the visitors, the Spurs winner came via a thrilling breakaway following a Cardiff corner.

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 team-mate spoke volumes about the build-up of tension during Soldado’s goal-drought.

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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Meanwhile, Christian Benteke scored twice as Aston Villa came from a goal behind to beat Norwich City 4-1 on Sunday and move seven points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Villa, who’d gone three games without scoring a goal.

The omens were not promising for Villa manager Paul Lambert against his former club when Wes Hoolahan gave visitors Norwich a third minute lead.

But a rainswept Villa Park then saw Benteke score two goals in three minutes and before half time the Birmingham club were 4-1 in front thanks to Leandro Bacuna and an own-goal from Sebastien Bassong.

Defeat left Norwich just four points above the bottom three but having played a game more than nearest pursuers Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion, and two games more than beaten League Cup finalists Sunderland.

Things looked good for the Canaries, fresh from a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, and their under-pressure manager Chris Hughton when they took an early lead,.

Gary Hooper beat the offside trap to get in behind a static Villa defence and his cut-back found Hoolahan, who steered the ball in but did not celebrate a goal against a club he has been tipped to join.

But Villa hit back in style when Benteke, seemingly well-shackled by Joseph Yobo, took a ball on his chest, turned and volleyed in an equaliser from 15 yards in the 25th minute.

Barely had Norwich had time to recover from that blow then Villa were in front when Belgium striker Benteke powered in a header from a corner.

Hoolahan was twice denied in quick succession by Brad Guzan, the Villa keeper blocking a shot and follow-up header.

To make matters worse for Norwich, they soon found themselves 3-1 behind when a Villa counter-attack saw the speedy Gabriel Agbonlahor release Andreas Weimann, who in turn found Bacuna on the overlap.

Bacuna cut inside and then steered a sht home off the inside off the post.

And four minutes before the break Villa were 4-1 up when the unfortunate Bassong could do nothing but steer Fabian Delph’s cross into his own net, with Agbonlahor lurking behind him.

Unsurprisingly, the second half failed to match the first and when Hooper did break the offside trap six minutes from time his shot was parried away to safety by Guzan.

In addition, in the day’s other game, Glenn Murray ended almost a year of frustration by scoring his first ever Premier League goal through a second-half penalty to secure a 1-1 draw for Crystal Palace against Swansea on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, who was Palace’s leading scorer last season with 31 goals but had not played since May because of injury and had only returned to action against Manchester United last weekend, slotted home the penalty eight minutes from time.

Jonathan De Guzman had given the hosts the lead in the first-half but Murray’s goal, only Palace’s sixth away goal of the season and first since December 26, earned his side a valuable point in the relegation battle.

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