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.
“We were so relaxed and kept calm, it was so important. We showed Wolves was just an accident,” Pochettino said.
“It’s a crazy fixture list – it’s normal that in some games we can drop our mental energy.
“The most important thing is to find a way to be consistent if we want to be contenders. We need to believe more in us. We are in a process of doing fantastic things.”
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Spurs’ title tilt back on track
Spurs are genuine contenders to win the Premier League, even if Mauricio Pochettino had described his side as “intruders” in the title race.
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.
At this point Spurs looked set to give Cardiff a hammering, but instead Pochettino’s men showed a little mercy.
After a congested festive period of fixtures, it may have been an attempt to conserve Spurs’ energy, which is perhaps a wise approach with far tougher challenges to come.
“We suffered with four games in 10 days. I want to congratulate the players. I’m so pleased with the effort,” Pochettino said.
“We felt disappointed [after the Wolves loss] and we wanted to show our energy from the beginning. After 20 minutes we showed how we wanted to play and were clinical.
“Today we showed great energy and maturity that we want. Now we need to keep that level and consistency throughout the season if we want to be there and fight for big things.”