Gareth Southgate and Dele Alli have rubbished claims that the latter swore at the referee during England’s victory over Slovakia.
England beat Slovakia 2-1 to edge closer towards qualification for the 2018 World Cup, but the game has been overshadowed after Alli’s controversial gesture was caught by the TV cameras.
Irked not to win a free-kick after a collision with Martin Skrtel on the edge of the box, when play was eventually halted TV footage showed the Tottenham midfielder swearing.
Southgate downplayed talk his gesture was aimed at referee Clement Turpin, with Alli claiming instead to have been messing around with Kyle Walker.
“I’ve not seen it but I’ve been made aware of it,” Southgate said. “Dele and Kyle were mucking about, and Dele has gestured towards Kyle.
“I don’t know what’s been visible on the pitch, or what the angle of the pitch was.
“The pair of them have a strange way of communicating, but that’s what they’ve said when it’s been raised.”
Alli took to Twitter shortly after the match to try and put an end to talk about who the gesture was aimed at.
The England midfielder posted: “Just to clarify, the gesture tonight was a joke between me and my good friend Kyle Walker! Apologies for any offence caused! Great win 2nite.”
Earlier this year FIFA hit Lionel Messi with a four-match ban for allegedly verbally abusing a match official. The Argentina international served one game and had his suspension overturned on appeal.
Southgate will be hoping to avoid any sanctions – and a repeat of Alli’s immaturity.
“I’ve literally just gone and asked him quickly, so, for me, what it obviously does was detract from probably what was his best performance for us since I’ve been the manager,” he said.
“His work without the ball was top drawer, he really took intelligent positions, pressed them all over and his work with the ball was excellent.
“He looked a real threat, played people in, made fantastic runs in behind the opposition defence, so hopefully we’ll be talking about that once everything else is cleared up.”
Victory leaves England in a strong position, while Slovakia will look to secure second spot.
“All in all, we did well, but England controlled the game,” Slovakia manager Jan Kozak said. “They were better than us, especially in the second half.”