Saturday 7 December 2019

Alli gives England spur for future in Goodison thriller

Everton 1-1 Tottenham

Dele Alli celebrates after scoring the first goal for Tottenham. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates
Dele Alli celebrates after scoring the first goal for Tottenham. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates
Everton manager Roberto Martinez and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino . Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates
Tottenham Hotspur's Joshua Onomah and Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori clash. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Everton's Aaron Lennon scored against his former club. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

On an afternoon at Goodison Park when no one secured three points, there was still an emphatic winner.

Wherever Roy Hodgson was sitting, he must have been purring at the possibilities for the future of English football as he watched teenager Dele Alli taking on Ross Barkley in the centre of midfield.

Add a dash of John Stones and Harry Kane and it is little wonder Roberto Martinez's post-match appraisal lauded this current crop of home-grown English gems.

Martinez once suggested his club did not pursue Alli because he already had Barkley.

The England manager has the luxury of both, which could become football's equivalent of Ben Stokes marching in to bat with Jonny Bairstow.

On the corresponding weekend a year ago, an 18-year-old Alli was an unused substitute as MK Dons succumbed at home to Chesterfield in the FA Cup third round.

As he celebrated the latest in a growing portfolio of exceptional goals and mature performances at a drizzly Goodison, it was not just the speed of his progression but the promise of what's to come that left the deepest impression.

There are certain players whose age seems to need double-checking such is the ease and wisdom of their play.

You expect to see the rawness of youth, but as Alli controlled Toby Alderweireld's 50-yard pass on his chest before volleying past Tim Howard in first-half injury time even the disgruntled Evertonians found it hard to resist applause.

It was a goal basic in its construction but gorgeous in its execution.

The youngster's fast-tracking into the England squad will surely lead to Euro 2016 and, if used correctly, Alli's breakthrough season at the highest level may yield the same spectacular improvement at international level as it has domestically.

Spurs manager Maurichio Pochettino sees no reason to take his age into consideration, or tailor his workload in the second half of the season. "If he shows in every training session he deserves to play, why not?" Pochettino said. "From the beginning we have been taking care of him. We know we need to be careful.

"From when he arrived at the club, in our head we always try to care because when they are young, we care. It is not only him. We have lots of young players."

Martinez was equally effusive as he suggested the England national team should be buoyant about its future.

In total there were nine home-grown English players on show, at least six of them likely to be dropping major hints to their national manager for the next 10 years.

"What you are seeing now is such a variety of good young English players," said Martinez. "You don't get many generations with John Stones, Ross Barkley, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier, all with something to offer - they are very different."

A stroke of brilliance from Spurs old and new ensured the points were shared.

Before Alli's intervention the visitors were trailing undeservedly to their former winger Aaron Lennon's volley.

For 21 minutes it was tempting to ask Lennon if he had paid for his ticket to watch his former team-mates pass the ball around. He was not alone as Pochettino's side monopolised possession and controlled the game's speed dial.

Then, Tom Cleverley picked out Romelu Lukaku, and his nod down to Lennon was met with a perfect left-footed volley.

Somehow Everton led and Martinez's willingness to play counter-attacking football in his own stadium was reaping rewards.


The Spurs manager's intent to show the days of his club wilting at tough venues was being undermined by the score if not the performance.

The fluency with which Spurs started justified the view that this side has a different face to so many others that have fretted the further north it travelled.

Taking the initiative, they were denied a goal within three minutes by Seamus Coleman's last-ditch tackle on Alli.

Kane was closer on nine minutes when he accepted an invitation to smash one from distance. The inside of the post came to Howard's rescue.

The woodwork was no friend to Spurs as Ben Davies saw another spectacular effort from distance rattle the crossbar on 30 minutes, by which time the visitors' were chasing an equaliser.

Pochettino argued that his side should have won after "dominating for 75 minutes" although he found the lack of a party spirit in his dressing room after what could be considered an encouraging point reassuring.

"The players are very disappointed in the training room. Always at the end of the game we play some music but not today. That is a good sign," he said.

"The feeling is we dropped two points. We are the youngest squad in the Premier League but we have shown our winning mentality."

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