Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said he always trusted Dele Alli’s talent, despite the England international’s struggles to meet his high standards this season.
Alli on Sunday doubled his tally for this calendar year by scoring twice in four second-half minutes as Spurs beat Chelsea 3-1 to end a 28-year wait for a league win at Stamford Bridge.
Defeat for the hosts all but ended Chelsea’s hopes of a UEFA Champions League spot next season as Spurs opened up an eight-point lead over their closest challengers for fourth place.
“I’m very, very pleased for Dele,” Pochettino said. “It’s been a tough period for him, but I like his talent, his character. I’m so happy for him because he deserved it.”
Alli was left out of both England’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy last month, with Gareth Southgate suggesting his place in the starting XI at the World Cup was far from secure.
“I’m sure people will still be disappointed with the way I played today,” said Alli, who celebrated his first goal provocatively in front of the Chelsea fans.
“I don’t think I had to prove [anything] with the way I played today,” he added.
Pochettino believes Alli has just become a victim of his own success so early in his career after scoring 22 goals last season.
“In the end, he’s a great talent, only 21 years old, and sometimes we lose the focus on that. He’s only 21. Sometimes the expectation is too much,” he said.
Spurs’ performance was even more impressive as they came from behind after a huge error by captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Alvaro Morata the opening goal.
Christan Eriksen’s wonder strike leveled in first-half stoppage-time, before Alli took center stage to end a barren run by his standards with two smart finishes just after the hour mark.
“When we were down against Chelsea, the team showed great quality and deserved the victory,” Pochettino said. “We are in a good place to achieve the top four and to do that at the end of the season is the challenge.”
Spurs could even afford the luxury of doing the damage without star striker Harry Kane, who made his return from a three-week layoff with ankle ligament damage 16 minutes from time.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s days in charge look numbered as failure to make the top four is likely to seal the Italian’s fate, no matter what comes of their run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
“My task is to work, and I know that I and my staff work 24 hours a day for Chelsea,” Conte said. “Then the club has to take the decision. I am not worried about this.”
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