Mauricio Pochettino and Roy Hodgson both defended Dele Alli after he was again accused of diving following his appeals for a penalty in Tottenham’s 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
Harry Kane scored his 35th goal of the season and 150th in club football to finally overcome Palace’s resilience but it was Alli who remained 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 responded by confronting him.
Alli was criticised by the Selhurst Park crowd before Gary Lineker called him “Divey Alli” on social media, where Alan Shearer had also described the incident as a “blatant dive”.
In the build-up to Sunday’s fixture, Hodgson – who, as with Kane, gave Alli his England debut – had instead dismissed suggestions the midfielder was a diver, and Pochettino said: “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 Argentinian then said: “For me, the action of Hennessey on Ben Davies was a clear penalty.”
At the point of Alli’s appeals, Hodgson’s Palace had been on course for a valuable point that would have kept them above the bottom three by more than just goal difference, but the manager said: “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 mass media is about players diving: the public jump on the bandwagon to get as much advantage as they can.”