It is deep midwinter, but summer is always on one man’s mind. As chilly as Selhurst Park was yesterday, Roy Hodgson left with a warm glow after two of his potential Euro 2016 match-winners maintained Tottenham’s title challenge.
Hodgson, drawn to his native south London by the rare prospect of watching 10 Englishmen start a Premier League match, watched Harry Kane score his 12th goal in 14 League matches with a towering header. But as he navigated his way home it was Dele Alli who was foremost in his thoughts. The teenage tyro had another fine game, capped by a stunning individual goal.
As Alli received a headed pass from Christian Eriksen outside the box with the scores level and seven minutes remaining, there seemed few options, especially as Mile Jedinak went to press him. Alli juggled the ball twice, lifting it over the onrushing Australian like a matador teasing a charging bull, then volleyed just inside the near post.
“It was an amazing goal, fantastic,” said Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham’s manager. “It was a great goal,” said Alan Pardew ruefully. The Palace manager drew comfort from his team’s performance, but this was a fourth successive League defeat and sixth without scoring a goal – they did get on the scoresheet, but it was via an own goal by Jan Vertonghen.
There could be worse to come as Connor Wickham could face a three-match retrospective ban for appearing to elbow Vertonghen off the ball. The Belgian fell awkwardly, injuring his knee and ankle, and had to be replaced. The seriousness of the injuries is yet to be diagnosed. For his part, Pardew was unhappy with a challenge by Alli on Yohan Cabaye.
Pardew, whose team have struggled to cope with the absence of Yannick Bolasie, was much happier after 28 minutes when Wilfried Zaha drove in a cross inadvertently turned into his own goal by Vertonghen.
The lead lasted past the hour, largely because of Wayne Hennessey. The Palace goalkeeper thwarted Kieran Tripper, Kane, Alli and, brilliantly, Danny Rose, but could do nothing, however, to keep out Kane’s header from Nacer Chadli’s cross.
Palace would have restored their lead but for two fine saves by Hugo Lloris from Zaha and Pape Souaré, and the crossbar denying Scott Dann and Jedinak. Then came Alli’s moment of brilliance. He also hit the bar in injury time before Chadli, escaping Jedinak to score from 20 yards, settled the points.