It was a look of both joy and relief on the face of Roberto Soldado as he poked in Emmanuel Adebayor’s cross from close range and put Tottenham into the lead.
For a much-troubled man on the pitch for much of the season, the goal represented a huge weight off his shoulders as he had faced the brunt of criticism from Spurs fans for their slip-ups this season.
But the Spaniard put that all behind him, grabbing a bunny of a goal after a great run to earn the home side all three points at White Hart Lane to send Cardiff City further into the depths of the relegation zone.
Spurs started well, but as the story’s been for the last few months, Soldado missed the game’s first chance with a mistimed header inside the opening five minutes.
Headers remained Spurs best chance at going in front, as Michael Dawson couldn’t direct his past David Marshall on a 17th minute free-kick.
They were incisive, albeit lacking the final touch, but relief not just in the game but in the season came for Soldado as Spurs went in front.
In the 28th minute, the Spaniard made a run that sliced up the Cardiff defense, and Adebayor found him in the middle of the box. Gary Medel failed to cut off the passing lane, and Soldado didn’t miss this time with an easy tap-in.
Spurs went in front 1-0, and Soldado picked up just his second Premier League goal from open play this season, his sixth overall.
It was mostly Spurs from there, as the home side controlled the pace and possession in the second half. Cardiff City looked to throw everything they had forward, but it was to no avail as Spurs held serve with relative ease.
Substitute Harry Kane nearly picked up his first Premier League goal for Spurs but one-on-one he could not beat Marshall.
The win pulls Spurs within five points of fourth place, but they still have plenty of work to do and a little outside help to catch Manchester City in the final Champions League spot.
For Cardiff City, they remain a point off the bottom of the table, and have a vital match with 20th placed Fulham next weekend, with a loser in that one potentially doomed to the drop.
Tottenham – Lloris; Naughton, Dawson, Vertonghen, Fryers; Lennon, Dembele, Paulinho (Sandro 73′), Townsend (Chadli 70′); Adebayor, Soldado.
Goals – Soldado 28′
Cardiff City – Marshall; Caulker, Turner, Fabio (Jones 73′), John; Medel, Campbell, Kim, Gunnarsson (Daehli 63′), Cala; Bellamy (Mutch 63′).