Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino leapt to the defence of Dele Alli after the midfielder was once again accused of diving in his side’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Alli left the pitch to jeers following the win secured by Harry Kane’s 89th minute header after going to ground easily under challenges from Patrick van Aanholt and Wayne Hennessey.
The England international had been accused of looking for a penalty in the FA Cup tie against Rochdale a week previously and has twice been booked for simulation this season. But Pochettino defended his player and claimed Alli is an easy target for opposing fans.
“We need to stop saying too much about him to stop helping people, the fans, creating this reputation,” said the Argentine.
“He’s so competitive and played very well today but Dele is an easy target.
“Dele is such a special kid. He’s going to play. He’s going to show his quality. He won’t worry what people are saying about him.”
Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who handed Alli his England debut in 2015, also defended the player.
“The way our defenders defend the situation, he had to go down to avoid them,” said Hodgson.
“I don’t think he was looking for a penalty. I’d advise Patrick not to square up to Dele Alli. My money would be on Dele Alli in that situation.”
Tottenham’s win, combined with Chelsea’s defeat at Manchester United moved Pochettino’s side back into the top four despite a less than convincing performance.
But they were once again bailed out by Kane, whose header slipped through Hennessey’s grasp for his 35th goal of the season.
“Harry, for different circumstances, missed the first few chances but in the end his character made him keep pushing, keep trying, and achieve what he wanted,” added Pochettino.
“All the talented players, the top players, can miss chances. But what makes this type of player a top player is that, the moment after they miss, they forget about it and try and create or take another.”
Pochettino also warned right-back Serge Aurier he can expect additional work on the training ground after being penalised three times for a foul throw.
“I said to him: ‘You are going to get me sacked. It looks like we are so bad we don’t even practise throw-ins.’”
Palace’s failure to hold on meant they failed to move a point clear of the bottom three but Hodgson insisted there was no need to panic despite facing United and Chelsea in their next two games.
“After seven games we were seven or eight points adrift. At least now we’re level. Even if we lost all of those games against United and Chelsea, we still wouldn’t be eight points behind in the relegation zone.
“If we get the players back who are unfit at the moment, who knows? In our best moments, with our best team, we can be quite effective.”