Mauricio Pochettino defended “easy target” Dele Alli from the latest accusations of diving after further criticism followed his appeals for a penalty in Tottenham’s 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
Harry Kane’s 88th-minute header secured the three points at Selhurst Park that took Spurs back up to fourth in the Premier League, but even after he secured his 35th goal of the season it was Alli who was the centre of attention.
The 21-year-old went down in the area under minimal contact from the impressive Wayne Hennessey and also sought a penalty after a challenge from Patrick van Aanholt, who then confronted him.
In response to the first incident, Gary Lineker called him “Divey Alli” on Twitter, and fellow former England striker Alan Shearer labelled the incident a “blatant dive”. Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar also said that Alli is “such a diver”.
But Pochettino said of his midfielder: “He is an easy target for everyone. We need to stop saying too much about him to stop helping people, the fans, creating this reputation.
“He’s so competitive and played very well 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.”
Asked if Alli had deserved a penalty, the 45-year-old Pochettino then said: “For me, the action of Hennessey on Ben Davies was a clear penalty.
“We deserved the victory. Late but, in the end, we fully deserved the game. It wasn’t easy to play here against a team who are difficult to break down, but the win was important.
“Harry (Kane) missed the first few chances but in the end his character made him keep pushing, keep trying, and achieve what he wanted.
“All 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.
“The important thing with the team is we are more mature; we never give up.”
Palace manager Roy Hodgson had given both Alli and Kane their England debuts. He also defended Alli in response to pre-match questions surrounding his growing reputation for diving.
Defeat means only goal difference is keeping his team above the bottom three, but 70-year-old Hodgson said of Alli: “He only had the option to go down. The way our defenders defend the situation, he had to go down to avoid them. I don’t think he was looking for a penalty.
“(The crowd getting agitated is) what happens when all the talk in the massed media is about players diving: the public jump on the bandwagon to get as much advantage as they can.”
“After seven games we were seven or eight points adrift (of safety). At least now we’re level. If we get the players back who are unfit, who knows?”