Alli’s petulance clouds important win for England
LONDON (AP) — With Wayne Rooney retired from international soccer, it seems that England has another hot-headed No. 10 to fill the void.
Near the end of England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier on Monday, Dele Alli appeared to make an obscene gesture toward French referee Clement Turpin after not being awarded a free kick for being blocked off by a defender.
England manager Gareth Southgate was made aware of the furor surrounding the gesture, but suggested it was not aimed at the referee but Alli’s teammate, Kyle Walker.
“Dele and Kyle were messing about and Dele has made a gesture towards Kyle,” Southgate said. “They have a strange way of communicating ... but as I say, I have not seen the incident.”
That explanation may not wash with the authorities.
Tottenham’s 21-year-old attacking midfielder has a history of on-field misbehavior and is known to hit out if he is targeted by opposition players.
At the end of the 2015-16 Premier League season, Alli was given a retrospective three-match ban for punching Claudio Yacob in the stomach during Tottenham’s match against West Bromwich Albion. It meant Alli missed the season run-in, damaging Tottenham’s pursuit of eventual champion Leicester.
That season, he was accused of stamping on Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye during a Premier League game and, a few weeks later, Alli appeared to kick out at Fiorentina defender Nenad Tomovic during a Europa League game in an incident missed by officials.
He will miss the first three games of Tottenham’s Champions League group-stage campaign as he is serving a three-match ban for committing a dangerous tackle that resulted in a red card against Gent in last season’s Europa League.
Alli is one of the Premier League’s brightest young players and most prolific midfielders, and is set to have a long international career ahead of him. He currently fills the playmaker role behind striker Harry Kane that used to be filled by Rooney, who announced his retirement from England duty last month.
Southgate was keen to not let the late incident involving Alli, which came just before he was substituted, cloud England’s win.
“It probably detracts from what has been his best performance whilst I have been England manager,” Southgate said, “and hopefully we will be talking about that instead of this.”
The official attendance of 67,823 was the lowest for an England home game at Wembley in three years, with a full tier seemingly left empty. This followed the scene of England supporters streaming out of the ground long before the final whistle in the 4-0 win in Malta on Friday.
There appears to be a growing disconnect between many of England’s fans and the team, particularly after the country’s performance at recent major tournaments.
Yet, Southgate chose to thank the fans for getting behind England, which had to come from behind after conceding a goal inside three minutes to Slovakia.
“For me, the crowd played a big part in sticking by us when we needed them,” he said.