Dele Alli has been one of the stars of the Premier League since joining Tottenham from MK Dons. It has been a remarkable rise to the top and on Wednesday, he established himself on the European stage with a match-winning performance against Real Madrid. The Champions League holders have had a poor start to the season by their high standards, but Spurs entered the match at Wembley as the outsiders, considering their lack of elite experience compared to their illustrious opponents. However, they approached the match with the right intensity and came away with an incredible victory.
There was a lot to like about the team’s performance, as every player did their bit for the cause, but Alli was the standout player. He gave his side a first-half lead after some great movement allowed him to beat a Real Madrid defender to the ball and convert Kieran Trippier’s low cross. The goal showed intelligent movement and great determination from the midfielder to get to the ball. The England international followed that up after half-time with another goal. This one was slightly fortunate as his shot was deflected into the goal, but he did well to manoeuvre the space for a strike at goal.
Alli was a constant thorn in the side of Real Madrid as he was taking up good positions and causing problems with his movement. The relationship between the midfielder and Harry Kane is nearing on telepathic at this stage, which showed on Wednesday. During the match, the 21-year-old attempted three shots and made one key pass. However, it was his ball carrying that was most impressive. The former MK Dons man completed five dribbles, which was more than any other player in the match. He looked confident every time the ball arrived at his feet and his willingness to run at opposition players helped Tottenham in transition.
Mauricio Pochettino will rank this as one of the best wins of his managerial career to date. Tottenham were excellent and outplayed Real Madrid in every department. The Argentine demands that his players work hard and contribute to the defensive effort of the team. Alli sometimes ignores this part of the game, but he was relentless in his defensive contribution on Wednesday. The midfielder was pressing the Real Madrid players at every opportunity. His contribution of four successful tackles wouldn’t have been missed by his manager. Only Casemiro completed more during the match.
This wasn’t a perfect performance from Alli, but it was one of his best of the season so far. The 21-year-old will be slightly disappointed by his pass success rate of 65%. At times, he was lazy in possession and made the wrong decision with the ball at his feet, but it would be nit-picking to suggest this took anything away from the performance. Last season, the midfielder and his team-mates failed to make an impact in the Champions League, falling out at this stage of the competition. Fast forward 12 months and they look set to win a group featuring Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
The team continues to improve year-by-year and Alli is establishing himself as one of the best young players in the world. It was important that he made an impact on the European stage to continue his development and this performance will have made headlines across Europe. There have already been newspaper stories linking him with bigger clubs, but right now, he is best suited to staying in North London.