Tottenham’s formidable Champions League campaign continued last night with a 2-1 comeback against Borussia Dortmund, confirming them as winners of Group H – which many initially viewed as the toughest of the tournament proper’s opening round.
The Black-Yellows’ season has imploded spectacularly since the two sides met at Wembley back in September and last night’s match lacked the same competitively-charged edge, but that shouldn’t take away from the character and quality Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed after being humbled in the north London derby on Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest boost for Tottenham aside from three points was Harry Kane finding the net for the first time in any competition for almost a month. But equally impressive and instrumental to Tottenham’s hopes this season was Dele Alli linking play behind Kane, in a win that owed much to his ability to provide ingenuity in small spaces.
Alli set up Kane’s opening strike with a simple but measured pass into the England international’s path – Kane taking one touch to set it onto his right foot before sneaking his shot through a defender’s legs and onto the inside of the near post. He supplied Heung-min Son for the second as well; after wriggling beyond two defenders out wide, Alli’s cutback allowed the South Korean to curl beyond Roman Burki.
Alli still has a knack of drifting in and out of games, almost waiting for the action to eventually come to him. Tellingly, he ranked eighth throughout the team for touches of the ball. But it was a smart, economical and determined performance from the 21-year-old to defy the criticism he’s received at times this season, completing 89% of his passes and producing the most tackles of any Spurs player.
What will frustrate Tottenham fans, though, is how rare these kinds of performances have been this season. While the 22-cap Englishman has consistently delivered in the Champions League against amongst the highest calibre of opponents the north Londoners have faced this season, games versus less talented sides have often passed him by this term.
Inconsistency is an inevitable byproduct of youth but if Alli is to become the world-class midfielder in the manner many view as essentially inevitable, performances like last night’s must be produced week in, week out.