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Roberto Soldado ended his goal drought to help Tottenham Hotspur brush off any European fatigue and edge Cardiff City 1-0 on Sunday.
Having taken just 10 points from the nine league matches that have immediately followed UEFA Europa League ties this season, Spurs built on their 3-1 win over Dnipro on Thursday with a hard-fought victory at White Hart Lane.
The home side, who are fifth and chasing qualification for the UEFA Champions League, took the lead through Soldado after 28 minutes as the Spaniard found the net for the first time since 29 December.
Strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor selflessly opted to play the Spaniard in before Soldado took a touch and fired the ball past David Marshall with the outside of his right boot.
It proved to be the only goal of the game as 19th-placed Cardiff – without an away league win since September – saw their relegation fears heightened.
Aaron Lennon, one of two Spurs changes, was quick to make an impact, providing a cross after just a minute that Soldado was only able to divert wide.
Craig Bellamy, making his return from a three-match suspension, then whistled a free-kick over the crossbar before laying on an opportunity for Fabio, whose shot was well blocked by Michael Dawson.
Andros Townsend was next to threaten during an open first 15 minutes, forcing Marshall into action with a low, driven effort.
After seeing Dawson go close with a volley and a header from a corner, the hosts continued to dominate possession and were soon rewarded. Soldado showed his quality to latch on to Adebayor's pass, calmly control the ball and place it home to register his first goal of 2014.
Steven Caulker almost levelled against his former club, crashing a header against the crossbar from Bellamy's corner, and Declan John stung the palms of Hugo Lloris three minutes before the break to offer a reminder Cardiff were still in the contest.
Lennon almost weaved his way through the visiting backline five minutes into the second half and continued to cause problems, drawing a foul from John just outside the penalty area. Townsend tested Marshall with the resulting free-kick and the goalkeeper denied substitute Harry Kane late on, although it mattered little as Cardiff failed to find a leveller.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, who visit bottom club Fulham on Saturday, remain three points off West Bromwich Albion in 17th, having played a match more than Pepe Mel's men.
For Tottenham Hotspur’s head coach Tim Sherwood, the win represents an ideal tonic ahead of Barclays Premier League encounters with London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea later this month, as well as a Europa League tie against Benfica.
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Tim Sherwood: "I was delighted for Robbie, he's a great character around the place. The boys love him and want him to do well.
"If I could have picked anyone to score that goal today it would have been him. He's a great lad, he's never a moment's problem, a true professional and he gets on with his training, whatever anyone asks him to do, he does it.
"He knows he's been in a sticky spell, but I always looked him in the eye and knew that he had the belief and that's important, for him to dig himself out of it. I'm just hoping that this is a platform for him to go on and kick on now."
Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "I was pleased with the team effort. We looked like a team again – a proper team that played for each other.
“First half I thought we caused them massive problems on the counter-attack at times and I was very pleased with the performance in that respect. But, of course, you can talk all day long – we need to score goals. If you want to win games, you need to score goals, of course.
"That’s what we practise every single day. Players practise it, now it's about that dedication and that need and urge to get on the end of things. You can't blame luck, but I think we're due some very soon."
"The players performed really well in that system and we got hold of the centre midfield as well.
We conceded a sloppy goal, a disappointing goal, but that wasn't because of our shape – we were caught on the break."
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|11 May 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|30 Mar 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|08 Mar 2014||v Chelsea (A)|