Tottenham avoided a slip-up after their midweek defeat to Barcelona, edging past Premier League basement boys Cardiff City 1-0 on Saturday and moving within one point of the leaders.
A mauling seemed to be on the cards when Eric Dier broke the deadlock from close range in the eighth minute, but it never materialised, even after Joe Ralls was sent off in the 58th minute. While Lucas Moura went close on a few occasions and Harry Kane saw a header saved, Cardiff also gave Spurs some scares. The north Londoners saw out the game, though, and go into the international break in a strong position in the top-flight table.
Wednesday's showdown with Barcelona was testing both physically and mentally, and the danger on Saturday was obvious: in a far less glamorous fixture, the concern was that Spurs would lower their intensity and suffer an upset in a must-win match. But they got the job done. Harry Winks, who has just been recalled to the England squad, looked back to his best, pulling the strings confidently, while Danny Rose produced another positive display at left-back and Moussa Sissoko and Eric Dier justified their inclusions.
Cardiff have not won a game all season, and this was their sixth defeat in a row, so Tottenham should have won more convincingly, especially given they played against 10 men for the final half hour. Spurs may be lying third in the table, but this was hardly a performance that proves they will remain genuine title contenders.
Rose also went off injured before the end. It remains to be seen what the problem is, but Mauricio Pochettino can ill-afford another injury.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- With five senior players missing through injury, Mauricio Pochettino had little opportunity for rotation and few selection dilemmas. But his side produced a committed display and got the win at the end of a challenging week.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- The Frenchman was beaten by Josh Murphy and had to be saved by Toby Alderweireld, but he made two important interventions, blocking Murphy's attempted lob and palming Sean Morrison's header onto the post.
DF Kieran Trippier, 7 -- A threat throughout. The right-back put in the cross for the goal and also created a headed chance for Lucas.
DF Toby Alderweireld, 8 -- Did brilliantly to hack the ball off the line under pressure from Junior Hoilett in the first half and was well placed to clear again when Lloris touched Morrison's effort onto the woodwork.
DF Davinson Sanchez, 6 -- The Colombian's header led to Dier's goal and he forced a save soon after. But he struggled against Callum Paterson on the ground and in the air, while also losing his aerial battle when Sol Bamba headed over in the first half.
DF Danny Rose, 7 -- Produced another pacy, positive display and burst past two players before crossing to Kane, whose header was saved. His only error was allowing Murphy to outmuscle him when the Cardiff man nearly scored in the first half.
MF Eric Dier, 7 -- Still not at his best, but he scored his first Premier League goal in 546 days and was more composed on the ball than in previous top-flight outings.
MF Harry Winks, 8 -- Ran the show in midfield, threading passes between the lines, pirouetting neatly in tight areas and making bursting runs upfield. It is a huge boost for Spurs to have him back in this form.
MF Moussa Sissoko, 7 -- Played his part in some neat passing moves around the box. The Frenchman set up a chance for Lucas and also played Son Heung-Min in on goal at the end of the first half.
MF Lucas Moura, 7 -- The Brazilian's speed and close control troubled Cardiff throughout and Ralls was sent off for cynically hacking him down from behind. He could just have been more clinical, especially when he missed the target from eight yards out.
MF Son Heung-Min, 7 -- Set up a good chance for Lucas after wriggling to the byline and pulling the ball back to his teammate, who missed the target, but then squandered a golden opportunity himself when he blazed over when free inside the box.
FW Harry Kane, 7 -- Produced an energetic display, helping to link the play in the first half before becoming more of a goal threat after the break. The striker had a header saved and then narrowly missed the target after spinning inside the box.
MF Erik Lamela, NR -- Replaced Son but couldn't maintain his scoring run.
MF Victor Wanyama, NR -- Gave Spurs some fresh legs and physicality for the final 10 minutes.
DF Ben Davies, NR -- Replaced the injured Rose late on.