Jose Mourinho made clear Dele Alli deserved to start for Tottenham against Fulham after putting in the hard work in recent weeks – and was pleased with what he delivered in the 1-0 win.
Alli was named in Spurs’ XI in the Premier League for just the second time this season, the midfielder playing 67 minutes before making way for Moussa Sissoko.
The England international created two chances and also had a shot himself during his time on the pitch, continuing an upward trend for a player whose future at the club has appeared uncertain for so much of the campaign.
Mourinho made clear a place in the team was a well-deserved reward for Alli, rather than a “gift”, as he looks to rotate amid a hectic schedule.
“He deserves it. It was not a gift, [it] was a consequence of his work since he came back to the team. [Through] Work and working with the team 100 per cent and becoming fully fit and ready to play,” the Tottenham boss told the media.
“He was giving us important things. He did very well in the Europa League. He did very well every minute on the pitch against West Ham, against Burnley, he was deserving.
“In this moment we need the squad, with so many matches coming so fast. Of course we need it. We cannot change the structure of the team. We can change two or three players, which today we did with Dele, Ben [Davies] and Matt [Doherty].
“I’m happy with what they gave to the team. For Dele, it was important to have a feeling of a Premier League start.”
— Toby Alderweireld (@AlderweireldTob) March 4, 2021
Alli was involved in the winner too, albeit his failure to connect properly resulted in an own goal by Tosin Adarabioyo that settled a close contest in Tottenham’s favour.
Fulham had just under 60 per cent possession and pushed hard for an equaliser, but the visitors held on at Craven Cottage for a win that further boosts their hopes of a top-four finish.
“I believe that we really showed from the first minute that we were coming for that [the win],” Mourinho said of the performance.
“The first half was a good half for us, the second half was harder. They put some pressure on us, but I believe that when we made the changes, we brought a new energy and dynamic to the team. We brought the danger to the other side.
“Even being a solid block to defend we were the team with the best chances to score in the last ten minutes.”
Spurs have now won back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since November, with Crystal Palace up next on Sunday.