The skill, speed of thought and genius of Christian Eriksen, in two seconds
Bruno Ecuele Manga knew he and his team were in trouble
With Cardiff already a goal down to Tottenham after ten minutes, it was he who looked best placed to deal - to try and deal - with Christian Eriksen, as the little Dane started to take aim from the edge of the penalty area.
A stretching Harry Arter came narrowly close to cutting out Son Heung-min’s pass but failed, and as he scrambled back to his feet, Manga closed Eriksen down, positioning himself between ball and goal, braced for a shot.
For all the world, it seemed as if he was shaping to try and curl one inside the far post of the Cardiff goal.
And then, in three parts, it happened...
Part one: Instead of shooting with his next touch, Eriksen dragged the ball back with his right foot, as if shifting it onto his left foot. Manga, bless him, took the bait, and started to adjust his feet, shuffling them across to his right.
Part two: Instantly, Eriksen abandoned the switch onto his left - a switch that, of course, he’d never actually intended in the first place - using the the underside of his right boot to roll the ball forward once more. Manga deceived and the space engineered, now, surely, he would guide the ball into that far corner.
Part three: Not satisfied with the humiliation already dished out to the Cardiff defender, Eriksen, anticipating Manga’s attempts to stick out a left leg in a final, desperate attempt to block the shot, opted against firing into the far corner, calmly slotting a low drive through his opponent’s legs and inside the near post.
This, in many ways, was Eriksen at his best. The intelligence in which he crafted the space, toying with his opponent until the moment was precisely right to take a shot was one thing to be admired, but the fact that all of this took place inside two seconds demonstrates the sheer speed at which his mind operates in such moments.
And yes, some might point to the positioning of Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff goal, or that Manga and his teammates could’ve been closer to him. The fact is, though, there are few better in world football than Eriksen at exploiting such flaws so ruthlessly - be it with a clever pass or a composed finish.
If Tottenham are to breathe new life into a title charge which took a hefty dent against Wolverhampton at the weekend, it is he, as much as the free-scoring Harry Kane, that is likely to inspire it.