Football

Pochettino: We'll help Alli regain England spot

Spurs manager backs their two-goal hero against Chelsea

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted he always trusted Dele Alli's talent despite the England international's struggles to meet his high standards this season.

Alli doubled his tally for 2018 by scoring twice in four second-half minutes as Spurs beat Chelsea 3-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Not since Gary Lineker scored the winning goal in 1990 had Tottenham taken three points home from Stamford Bridge.

Defeat for hosts Chelsea all but ends their hopes of Champions League football next season as Spurs opened up an eight-point lead over their closest challengers for fourth place.

"I'm very, very pleased for Dele," said Pochettino. "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 played only 22 minutes of England's recent friendly against Holland and was left out of the subsequent match against Italy, with Gareth Southgate suggesting his place in the starting XI at the World Cup was far from secure.

Pochettino was also asked whether Alli's confidence had been affected after being dropped by Southgate, with Manchester United's Jesse Lingard earning praise in his position.

"No, it did not affect him, he is a fighter," he said. "We have to help him if he doesn't play for the national team. We have to help him win the trust and confidence of the national manager. That's the only way to do it."

Alli, who celebrated his first goal provocatively in front of the Chelsea fans, said: "I'm sure people will still be disappointed with the way I played today.

"I don't think I had to prove (anything) with the way I played today."

Pochettino believes that Alli, who scored 22 goals last season, has just become a victim of his own success at just 21 years old.

"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."

Spurs' performance was even more impressive as they came from behind after a huge error from captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Alvaro Morata the opening goal.

Christan Eriksen's wonder strike levelled the score in first-half stoppage time, before Alli took centre stage to score with two smart finishes just after the hour mark.

"When we were down against Chelsea, the team showed great quality and deserved the victory," said Pochettino.

"We are in a good place to achieve the top four, and to do that at the end of the season is the challenge."

KANE BACK

Spurs could even afford the luxury of doing the damage without Harry Kane, who made his return 16 minutes from time after a three-week lay-off due to ankle ligament damage.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's days in charge look numbered as failure to make the top four is likely to seal his fate no matter what comes of their run to the FA Cup semi-finals.

"My task is to work, and I know that I and my staff work 24 hours a day for Chelsea," said Conte. "Then the club has to take the decision. I am not worried about this."

Conte has consistently complained of his lack of input over transfer dealings this season and insisted he has got the most out of a squad that cruised to the EPL title last season. - REUTERS

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