Dele Alli stole the show and the headlines by producing a goal of sheer quality that will stay in the minds of Tottenham fans for years to come. The goal was as important as it was magnificent, as it set us on our way to downing hapless Crystal Palace, consolidating 4th position and keeping us within touching distance of the league leaders.
Tottenham visited Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon seeking to build upon good results against Sunderland and Leicester. With the away support in typically fine voice, the game started like many of Spurs’ this season. Playing with confidence and energy, Tottenham dominated the ball and suffocated Palace’s attempts to play out to their front man Wickham.
Of course then it was Palace who took the lead. Vertonghen and Eriksen both failed in attempts to clear their lines, as Yohan Cabaye poked wide to winger Wilfried Zaha. Zaha, who was Palace’s most impressive player on the day, took it wide of Danny Rose and struck across goal. The home side’s strikers have been misfiring this season but fortunately for them an out-stretched Vertonghen leg was enough to steer the ball home. Spurs found themselves trailing at the break.
However, this is not the Spurs we’ve been used to for too long. This isn’t a side that goes into its shell after going a goal down. Determination has replaced frustration under Maurico Pochettino and it was his substitution that changed the game. Just before the hour mark Pochettino replaced holding midfielder Eric Dier with winger Nacer Chadli.
Chadli is a polarising figure at Spurs, but on top of his game he has match-winning ability, and it was this ability that opened up Palace for the equaliser. Rose mishit a cross that Chadli expertly scooped up before shifting into space and lofting a cross into the six yard box. Harry Kane was duly waiting to pounce and leapt above the Palace centre backs to head in for the equaliser, and his 16th of the season.
Without Dier marshalling them however Palace themselves were finding more space, and were desperately unlucky not to retake the lead. Jason Puncheon’s chipped free-kick found Scott Dann at the back post, who looping header came back off the cross bar to the feet of Mile Jedinak, who himself struck the woodwork before Spurs managed to scramble clear.
Then in the 84th minute Dele Alli produced a moment of pure and utter genius. Kane fired a cross field ball over to Christian Eriksen, who cushioned header found Alli on the edge of the box. The next time the ball touched the floor it was nestled in the bottom corner. One touch to control, one touch to lift over Jedinak’s head, and one touch to volley home on the spin past Wayne Hennesey in net. It was brilliance from the teenager, who potential is seemingly limitless. Already one of Spurs match-winners at 19 years of age, Alli has no ceiling to how good he can be.
He wasn’t done there, as moments later he span in the box past Damien Delaney, and saw his chipped effort crack off the cross-bar. It was then the excellent substitute Chadli who killed the game in the final stages. Driving in field past the tired Palace defenders, the Belgian international curled a fine effort from around 20 yards into the bottom corner. A good showing from Chadli, underlining his importance to Spurs.
This victory gave Spurs a five-point cushion over 5th placed Manchester United, and 5 again away from first placed Leicester. Spurs are very much in the hunt this year, thanks in no small part to some Dele Alli magic.
By Josh Smith