Alli brace steals show

Dele Alli leaping to head his second goal in Tottenham's 2-0 win over EPL leaders Chelsea. While overjoyed at the result, manager Mauricio Pochettino urged the team to be consistent for the entire season.
Dele Alli leaping to head his second goal in Tottenham's 2-0 win over EPL leaders Chelsea. While overjoyed at the result, manager Mauricio Pochettino urged the team to be consistent for the entire season.PHOTO: REUTERS

He steers Spurs into third place, ends Blues' 13-game winning run and opens up title race

LONDON • The streak ended, the juggernaut stopped, the English Premier League title race blown wide open - all that is left is to admire the young footballer who administered Tottenham's clinical 2-0 dismantling of weary league leaders Chelsea on Wednesday.

With every passing game, Dele Alli's stock continues to rise, and on Wednesday, the midfielder ended the Blues' staggering 13-match winning streak with two carbon-copy headers either side of half-time.

Barely 20 months ago, the 20-year-old was still playing in English football's third-tier League One with Milton Keynes Dons.

With his two goals against Chelsea, Alli reached 20 top-flight goals in just 52 matches, far quicker than the best English midfielders of the last decade - Paul Scholes (74 games), David Beckham (90), Frank Lampard (140) or Steven Gerrard (169).

No wonder European giants such as Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are setting their sights on him, eager to offer him far more than his £60,000 (S$106,000) weekly wage.

Against Chelsea at White Hart Lane, his positive attributes were in full view. While his stamina and height are powerful physical attributes, he also has this huge determination to get into the optimum position, deep into enemy territory and the intelligence twice to elude Blues defender Cesar Azpilicueta for his goals.

Spurs are now third in the table, but Alli insisted after the match: "We are happy to stay under the radar and keep picking up the points.

  • 52

  • Matches it took Dele Alli to hit 20 top-flight goals, faster than any recent elite English midfielders:

    74: Paul Scholes
    90: David Beckham
    140: Frank Lampard
    169: Steven Gerrard

"We are not going to get carried away, there is always room for improvement."

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was also keen to praise the entire team, as they subdued Chelsea so effectively that Blues striker Diego Costa argued heatedly with team-mate Pedro Rodriguez after getting little service in the first half.

"Dele was clinical in front of goal. It was great. He's showing big talent and potential. Not only him. We can talk about Harry Kane, many others," said the Argentinian.

Tottenham looked sharper and slicker and, unlike so many other opponents in recent weeks, had a plan to expose a weakness in Antonio Conte's team.

It could not be a coincidence that Alli's two goals came from near-identical Christian Eriksen crosses from the inside-right channel, both of them dropped into the area at the far post between Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, the smallest members of Chelsea's back line when defending.

Those two goals will do nothing to dissuade Conte's belief that he needs reinforcements in that department before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

They could have gone eight points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table, but their lead remains at five.

"It's only one game," Pochettino said. "We need to be regular and consistent during the whole season.

"We're happy for the victory, but it's only three points. If we want to fight until the end of the season for big things, for trophies, you need to keep that intensity. That is always the challenge.

"It was the perfect thing for us to arrive to third place and be close. That is important for us and there are a lot of games before the end of the season."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Alli brace steals show'. Print Edition | Subscribe