Saturday 18 November 2017

Pochettino praises Alli after all-rounder steps up in Kane's absence

Tottenham 2 Southampton 1

Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Matt Law

One hero down, Tottenham Hotspur needed another of their star men to step up and Dele Alli duly obliged by assuming Harry Kane's penalty-taking responsibility and, for 11 minutes against Southampton, the injured striker's position.

There was no hesitation or conversation over who would take over from Kane on spot kicks, when Alli won a first-half penalty.

Shane Long of Southampton controls the ball. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Shane Long of Southampton controls the ball. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Instead of looking around for direction or another willing volunteer, Alli grasped the ball, respotted it when goalkeeper Fraser Forster tried to put him off, and dispatched it into the net.

The goal proved to be just about enough for Tottenham, who survived a second-half comeback from the visitors, and underlined why manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Alli can do just about anything.

That point was reinforced near the end, when Pochettino replaced Son Heung-min with midfielder Harry Winks and made Alli his out-an-out striker until Vincent Janssen was also sent on with time running out.

"Dele Alli can always surprise - and you cannot guess with him," said Pochettino. "He has an unbelievable personality and character, and it is all possible with him.

Tottenham Hotspur's English defender Kieran Trippier (L) passes the ball by Southampton's English defender Ryan Bertrand. Photo: Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's English defender Kieran Trippier (L) passes the ball by Southampton's English defender Ryan Bertrand. Photo: Getty Images

"I saw him at 17 years old playing at Milton Keynes as a holding midfielder against Manchester United. Always he can surprise me, maybe one day he can play like a goalkeeper or a full-back or a centre-back!"

Having been moved into a more advanced role this season, Alli has scored 15 Premier League goals and Pochettino added: "He is a player who likes to run into the box and he is very often very clever in there. In the box, he looks like a striker because he is more than clever, he has made his mark. Outside the box, he plays like a midfielder."

If there had been any doubt that it was Alli who decided to take the penalty, then Pochettino confirmed that the 20-year-old had taken the situation into his own hands.

"It's good that you have players who want to take responsibility to take the penalty," said Pochettino.

Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen (L) vies with Southampton's Northern Irish midfielder Steven Davis. Photo: Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen (L) vies with Southampton's Northern Irish midfielder Steven Davis. Photo: Getty Images

With no Kane, Tottenham needed an early settler and it came courtesy of Christian Eriksen scoring his first Premier League goal of 2017 in the 14th minute.

Nobody in the Premier League turns better with a football than Mousa Dembele and he span into space before passing to Eriksen, who curled the ball into the net.

Forster may have been disappointed not to get a hand on Eriksen's effort, but the Southampton goalkeeper had already done well to stop Son.

Eriksen looked set to double his and Tottenham's tally midway through the first half, but his shot was blocked and from the resulting corner Forster produced a super save to deny Toby Alderweireld a goal against his former club.

When the second came in the 33rd minute after Steven Davis had crashed into Alli in the penalty area, Tottenham looked on course for a comfortable victory, but the hosts allowed Southampton back into the game.

Southampton's Irish striker Shane Long (L) tackles Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Harry Winks. Photo: Getty Images
Southampton's Irish striker Shane Long (L) tackles Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Harry Winks. Photo: Getty Images

There had already been a first-half warning that Spurs were vulnerable on their right-hand side, when an Eric Dier mistake let in Manolo Gabbiadini, who swapped passes with Dusan Tadic before rifling the ball into the side-netting.

Gabbiadini hurt his groin while shooting and had to be replaced by Shane Long, but Pochettino had been concerned enough to have words with both Dier and Kyle Walker on the touchline.

Pochettino will have no doubt reiterated his fears at the break, but just seven minutes after the restart Southampton halved the deficit after taking advantage of a Ryan Bertrand raid up Tottenham's right.

Bertrand galloped into space and his cross was not dealt with by Alderweireld, allowing James Ward-Prowse to sort his feet out and score past Hugo Lloris.

With Pochettino and the home crowd growing increasingly anxious, Kieran Trippier took over from Walker, who spent some time with the Spurs physio, examining a hand injury. Janssen got on for the final four minutes and almost scored with a shot that stung the palms of Forster.

There was still time for Southampton substitute Sofiane Boufal to fire just wide before the vast majority inside White Hart Lane could breathe a collective sigh of relief. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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