Dele Alli was issued a straight red card during Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw with Gent at Wembley Stadium on Thursday for taking out Brecht Dejaegere with a lunge to the shins. The sending-off was catastrophic for Spurs, who needed two goals in order to keep from being eliminated by Gent in the Europa League. Despite a valiant effort down a man, Spurs weren’t able to get the result and crashed out of the competition.
Alli’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, didn’t try and justify the horror tackle that sent Dele to the showers, but he did spend some time defending his player in post-match comments to the media, saying that Alli was devastated by the incident and how it affected his team.
"He is very disappointed and sad. In football, it happens. He knows he made a mistake. Now he tries to move on and improve. In the future we must avoid that situation.
"It's difficult. It's not to justify him but it's a different action, he was fouled before, it was an action that was a clear foul. That's not to blame the referee but the action came in very soon, that tackle, and I think he deserved to be sent off. He knows. But that kind of action can always happen.
"It's only one and a half years he is playing for Tottenham in the Premier League, all that he achieved in a very short period is because he is special and a special boy.
"He has unbelievable personality and character. But before that he is a great player.
"In the same way, he is how he is. He is very passionate to play football and sometimes this action happens. Now it's time to support him, he is very sad and disappointed in the changing room."
The sending off was 100% justified, and nobody appears to be saying otherwise. Even Gent’s manager, Hein Vanhaezebrouck, went out of his way to say that he didn’t think that the tackle was malicious, or done with any intent to injure.
“I don't think he did it on purpose, but it was a red card. It was really dangerous. We lost our player also. This happens in football when both teams go 100 per cent in duels. He went full in the duel, but it was just too late.”
Alli spoke directly to Dejaegere after the match, who (graciously) accepted his apology.
"Dele Alli just said sorry to me and that's nice from him, he's a professional.
“We're okay, it's football. I saw the images and it could have been much worse. I don't think he meant it because he came to apologize himself.
I felt it was a really hard tackle but then in the moment, you turn the button and try to focus on the game."
Perhaps remarkably, this is the first time Dele has been sent off as a Tottenham player, despite a history of petulance and minor shitheadery dating back to last season. As a result of the red card, Dele will almost certainly be suspended Spurs’ first three UEFA-sponsored European matches in either the Champions or Europa League (assuming they qualify).