Tottenham Hotspur kept alive their hopes of a top four Premier League finish when Roberto Soldado scored the only goal at White Hart Lane to give them a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Cardiff City on Sunday.
Soldado, who has struggled to justify the 30 million euros (US$41.4 million) Spurs paid Valencia for his signature last year, finished off a sizzling counterattack after 28 minutes to score what proved to be the match-winner and lift them on to 53 points from 28 matches, although they stay in fifth place.
It was his sixth league goal of the season, but only his second from open play with the other four coming from the penalty spot.
The result at White Hart Lane kept Spurs in sight of a UEFA Champions League place next season.
“That’s our goal, but its huge ask and we are not giving up, we believe we can do it,” Spurs manager Tim Sherwood told reporters. “Its tough, we are in the fight, Everton, even Newcastle probably. What we want to do is muck up as many other people’s seasons as possible and enhance our own, and we are going for it.”
The result left Cardiff one point and one place above Fulham at the bottom of the table before the two sides play each other at the weekend.
“We made it very hard for them, but we just did not have the luck. Steven Caulker hit their bar against his old team and we could have scored others, but goals win you matches and we are not scoring,” Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. “We have 10 matches left and I still think we can survive.”
The other two games on Sunday ended in a 4-1 win for Aston Villa over Norwich City, while Swansea City and Crystal Palace drew 1-1 to give both teams a point in their battles against the drop.
Norwich, who have only won two matches since the turn of the year and are not out of danger, took the lead after three minutes at Villa Park when Wes Hoolahan, who Villa wanted to sign in the January transfer window, stabbed home from close range.
However, the game was turned on its head in a 16-minute spell when Villa scored four times to preserve manager Paul Lambert’s record against his former club since he moved to Villa Park.
“To win games in this league is tough and we’ve done that, so hopefully we can carry on. We’re trying to look forward rather than down all the time,” Lambert told Sky Sports. “It’s important to keep that belief. They’re a young group and need that help sometimes.”
Belgium international striker Christian Benteke opened the scoring for Villa with a brilliantly executed scissors-kick after 25 minutes, before he headed in to make it 2-1 two minutes later.
Leandro Bacuna then struck with a shot that went in off the base of a post after 37 minutes and Villa added a fourth when Sebastien Bassong bundled into his own net four minutes later.
Swansea took the lead against Palace through Jonathan de Guzman after 25 minutes, but the visitors equalized when Glenn Murray scored an 83rd-minute penalty after Chico Flores was sent off for denying Murray a goal-scoring opportunity.
Murray had been out for the past eight months with a long-term injury and it was his first Premier League goal.