LONDON • The humble stage of England's League One may be far removed from the Premier League's bright lights but Dele Alli has never forgotten his Milton Keynes roots.
Mauricio Pochettino saw Wednesday evening as the perfect opportunity to reward Alli with the captaincy in front of his hometown crowd after Tottenham's decision to stage their League Cup third-round tie against Watford at Stadium MK.
And Alli, who received a special cheer from fans at the ground of his former club MK Dons, repaid his manager's faith by first scoring a late penalty before slotting home the decisive spot kick for Spurs to win 4-2 in the shoot-out following a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Afterwards, the Argentinian was thrilled for Alli, saying the England midfielder would cherish his homecoming for the rest of his career.
"It is so exciting for him," Pochettino said. "I gave him the armband because it was so exciting for him to play here in his home town.
"It is difficult for him to have another possibility to play here again in the future and I wanted to provide him a very good feeling. I hope he appreciates my gesture.
"He was inspired by the occasion. We can feel the love that the people feel for him here and that was fantastic for us. For him, it is an experience he will remember for all of his life. To be Tottenham captain and score is a fantastic night for him."
Their trip up north, however, looked to be heading for failure when Isaac Success fired Watford into the lead seconds after the restart. However, Spurs turned the tie around late in the second half through Alli's conversion from the spot before Erik Lamela finished off a slick counter-attacking move.
There was still time for former Spurs midfielder Etienne Capoue to heighten the suspense by equalising for Watford in the last minute.
But in the ensuing shoot-out, Capoue's effort was saved by Paulo Gazzaniga, who also foiled Domingos Quina's attempt, leaving Alli with his moment of glory.
In the other third-round ties, Arsenal secured their sixth successive win, with Danny Welbeck's brace and an added-time strike from substitute Alexandre Lacazette giving the Gunners a 3-1 home win over Championship side Brentford.
West Ham also recorded their biggest victory for 35 years after demolishing fourth-tier Macclesfield 8-0 at the London Stadium.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES OF LONDON