Dele Alli apologised to team-mates and Gent midfielder Brecht Dejaegere for his reckless tackle as 10-man Tottenham crashed out of the Europa League.
Spurs needed to win by two after Gent’s 1-0 victory in Belgium last week but Alli’s 39th-minute lunge on Dejaegere, and subsequent sending off, made the task all the more difficult at Wembley.
Christian Eriksen’s opener and an own-goal from Harry Kane meant the score was 1-1 when Alli was given his marching orders by referee Manuel De Sousa.
Victor Wanyama’s superb second-half strike gave Tottenham hope but Jeremy Perbet’s late goal on the break sealed Gent a 2-2 draw and 3-2 win on aggregate.
Alli’s challenge was high and dangerous, spearing his studs just below Dejaegere’s knee, but the Belgian felt no bitterness after the match.
“Dele Alli just said sorry to me and that’s nice from him, he’s a professional,” Dejaegere said.
“We’re okay, it’s football. I saw the images and it could have been much worse. I don’t think he meant it because he came to apologise himself.”
Dejaegere was able to continue initially but had to be substituted in the 56th minute when the pain in his knee became more acute.
“I felt it was a really hard tackle but then in the moment, you turn the button and try to focus on the game,” Dejaegere said.
“At half-time I felt pain in my knee and also someone showed me the image and then my heart was thumping for a few seconds.
“I tried (to play on) because you’re at Wembley in front of so many people, but then I had pain so I had to stop.
“The red card made a big difference because even with 10 they found a free man, but with 11 they would have had even one more. I think it also made a difference in the heads of the players.”
Alli had cut a frustrated figure in the first half and his challenge appeared an expression of anger, after he had been denied a free-kick moments before.
Toby Alderweireld said the 20-year-old had apologised to his Tottenham team-mates.
“Of course he said sorry. He didn’t mean to get sent off,” Alderweireld said.
“Two seconds before someone made a foul on him and he reacted to that but he did not want to get a red card. He is young and I know for 100 per cent he didn’t mean (to do it).”
Tottenham are now realistically relying solely on the FA Cup for silverware this season but to lift the trophy they will have to beat Millwall and then win two matches at Wembley.
Spurs have now won only once there in eight games and the suspicion remains that any home advantage is outweighed by the inspiration opponents feel from playing at the national stadium.
“Six years ago I came to Wembley on a guided tour,” Dejaegere said.
“I was not allowed on the pitch, there was a sign, ‘don’t enter the grass on the pitch’.
“It’s fantastic, like the Mecca of all stadiums, so it gives you something extra. And if you see how many people were here from Gent it gave us something extra.
“But also maybe they always lose their games here so it can get in the heads of the players. Maybe they just need one big victory here which could change everything.”
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