LONDON • Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is relieved that Dele Alli was not hurt after being hit on the head by a water bottle hurled from the stands by an Arsenal fan, as English football endured another supporter flashpoint.
The controversy occurred in the 73rd minute of Spurs' 2-0 League Cup quarter-final win on Wednesday. It followed the racial abuse of Manchester City's Raheem Sterling at Chelsea and the banana skin thrown at Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by a Spurs fan during the Premier League derby.
Alli had been walking away from the touchline when the fan threw the bottle. He responded by flashing up the scoreline with his fingers and he later uploaded a picture of his provocative gesture on Twitter.
Arsenal said yesterday they have identified an image of the individual through TV footage and are working with police to apprehend the suspect.
"I saw it and it was lucky that it wasn't a big issue. We play a derby and we hate each other in a good way but it is in a bad way when you go to damage some people or an opponent," Pochettino said.
"It is only one stupid person who made a mistake. I respect the Arsenal fans. For one, you cannot talk about everyone. I hope Arsenal take responsibility. It wasn't a problem but it could have been a big issue."
Alli, who set up Son Heung-min for the opening goal in the 20th minute before scoring the second in the 59th, said: "It made my goal a little bit sweeter, and the win."
Years since Arsenal have been eliminated from the League Cup by Tottenham in 2008. That season, Spurs went on to win the competition after beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final.
Pochettino made the point once again that Alli has a knack of delivering in the biggest games.
"Dele loves to compete. In easy situations he gets bored easily. In training he gets bored easily if you don't put in opposition. It's because he's an animal, a competitive animal," the Argentinian said.
"When he's in a very competitive space he always gives his best. That is a quality he has. You cannot buy that in the supermarket."
Tottenham have beaten London top-flight rivals Watford, West Ham and Arsenal to reach the last four of the competition they won under Juande Ramos in 2008 - their last piece of silverware.
They will now have to overcome Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea, who beat Bournemouth 1-0, in what Pochettino says will be a "crazy" January.
The two legs will be played in the weeks commencing Jan 7 and Jan 21, meaning Spurs face seven matches in the first month of next year. That also comes after nine matches this month.
Asked what it would mean to deliver Tottenham a long-awaited trophy, Pochettino said the challenge of winning silverware in England's fiercely competitive environment should not be underestimated.
"It's unfair to talk about winning titles in this competitive country, it's so difficult," added Pochettino, who took Tottenham to the League Cup final in 2015 but lost to Chelsea.
"The most important thing is to create a competitive team... then you need some luck. It's going to be a crazy January, but I don't want to think too much."
Arsenal have now suffered two straight defeats after their 22-match unbeaten run was ended by Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.
"I think we worked like we want, like we prepared. We created chances in the first half to score but our efficiency wasn't good for us," manager Unai Emery said.
"We didn't concede a lot for them, but they have quality and they scored. I am happy with the performance, but not the result.
"We are doing our process, they are ahead of us in their process. We need to create our identity."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS