Mauricio Pochettino launched a passionate defence of Dele Alli despite the midfielder’s horror tackle costing Tottenham dear in the Europa League.
Alli was sent off as Spurs were held to a 2-2 draw against Gent at Wembley, which meant Pochettino’s men lost the tie 3-2 on aggregate and crashed out in the last 32.
Harry Kane’s own goal had cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s early opener before Alli’s moment of madness came in the 39th minute.
The 20-year-old, frustrated at being denied a free-kick, jumped to his feet, miscontrolled the ball and then thrust his right foot high and into the shin of Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere.
It meant Tottenham were left needing to score twice more with 10 men and while Victor Wanyama gave the hosts temporary hope in the second half, Jeremy Perbet’s late goal sealed Gent a surprise victory.
“He is very disappointed and sad,” Pochettino said of Alli. “In football, it happens. He knows he made a mistake. Now he tries to move on and improve. In the future we must avoid that situation.
“It’s difficult. It’s not to justify him but it’s a different action, he was fouled before, it was an action that was a clear foul. That’s not to blame the referee but the action came in very soon, that tackle, and I think he deserved to be sent off. He knows. But that kind of action can always happen.
“It’s only one and a half years he is playing for Tottenham in the Premier League, all that he achieved in a very short period is because he is special and a special boy.
“He has unvelievable personality and character. But before that he is a great player.
“In the same way, he is how he is. He is very passionate to play football and sometimes this action happens. Now it’s time to support him, he is very sad and disappointed in the changing room.”
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