Tottenham need to be consistent if they want to be Premier League title contenders, says manager Mauricio Pochettino after his side strolled to a 3-0 win at Cardiff to climb back up to second.
Spurs fell to a shock 3-1 home defeat by Wolves on Saturday but ruthlessly exposed Cardiff’s flimsy defence with three goals before half-time on Tuesday.
Harry Kane bundled in a fortuitous early opener in the third minute and Christian Eriksen nestled a fine strike into the bottom corner nine minutes later.
Son Heung-min added a third in the 26th minute 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 narrows the gap between Spurs and leaders Liverpool to six points, with the Reds away at third-placed Manchester City on Thursday.
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 played 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.
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 was irritated by the submissive nature of the defending from his side, who had kept clean sheets in 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.
“When we start off like that we shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said.
“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.”
Cardiff Man of the Match
Hoilett for Murphy (45 mins)
Ralls for Camarasa (59 mins)
Mendez-Laing for Reid (72 mins)