Dele Alli is a curious talent. There are games that he will absolutely dominate and then there are ones in which he is largely anonymous. However, there’s rarely one that he fails to leave his mark on.
The North London derby on Sunday was a quiet one for the Englishman for a the most part but it was him who made the breakthrough.
His movement was slight but ever so crucial. After carrying the ball into the box, it fell to Christian Eriksen’s feet and when the Dane made space for himself, Alli duly drifted into the perfect position and was on hand to eventually stab the loose ball in.
It’s that instinctive movement that changed the game and a second soon followed for Spurs when Harry Kane converted from the spot.
THREE KEY MOMENTS
22′ – A great chance goes begging. Kane holds up the ball before attempting a shot at goal which deflects perfectly into Alli’s path. The midfielder is put off by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s challenge and ends up sending his header wide when he had the goal at his mercy.
24′ – Just two minutes later, Victor Wanyama powered down the left flank before and played in Alli. The 21-year-old did well to find his way through a couple of Arsenal shirts before being stopped by Gabriel before he could do any real damage.
55′ – The damage was always coming though and Alli inflicted it early in the second half. He was alert enough to follow in Eriksen’s shot and turned in the rebound after Petr Cech’s save.
Alli has been in scintillating form of late and Mauricio Pochettino will be glad that he’s come good at the business end of the season.
Dele Alli has now been directly involved in 12 goals in his last 11 games across all competitions.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
8 goals ⚽️
4 assists 🅰️
Huge goal. pic.twitter.com/zeCKSFhmbV
What’s been great for Spurs in terms of Alli’s goal-scoring is that it’s been spread out well of late. He’s scored regularly rather than in bulk.
It wasn’t easy from the off for the youngster though as both he and Kane struggled to get involved with the team’s play for much of the first half.
Hugo Lloris completed more passes in the first half (15) than Dele Alli and Harry Kane combined (11).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
Struggling to get them on the ball. pic.twitter.com/JGF9UCOBom
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A congested fixture list coupled with key injuries to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba brought Wayne Rooney back into the first team fold. It seemed like the Manchester United captain was granted one last lease of life but it may only have been just enough rope to hang himself with.
Rooney was deployed in midfield as Swansea City paid a visit to Old Trafford but the Englishman failed to stamp his authority on the game that ended in a 1-1 draw. Apart from a few decent but relatively routine passes out wide to stretch the play, his influence in midfield was limited.
The 31-year-old did score the opener from the spot but the game largely passed him by as he struggled to carve out any openings for the United attackers to capitalise on.
A clumsy challenge on the edge of his own penalty area awarded Swansea a free-kick from which Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled them level.
The result leaves United’s hopes of a top four finish in tatters and it’s disheartening to think that the team’s captain, all-time top scorer and a player who should be a club icon has to shoulder a large portion of the blame.
THREE KEY MOMENTS
24′ – The first signs of Rooney’s lack of sharpness. Ashley Young does well to get down the left side and deliver a cross only to see his skipper loop a header well off the mark.
45′ + 3 – Marcus Rashford wins a penalty and Rooney dispatches it expertly.
79′ – Sigurdsson scores from the free-kick Rooney gave away with a clumsy challenge on Jordan Ayew.
A pretty average display in midfield. Didn’t impress but didn’t do too much wrong either. The the one foul, but a costly one at that – two points worth to be exact.
Wayne Rooney's game by numbers vs. Swansea:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
2 tackles won
1 foul committed
An impact at both ends. pic.twitter.com/4zJ7C2u9Vn
The records just keep piling up for Rooney though. Joining Alan Shearer in an exclusive club with that penalty.
150 - Only Alan Shearer (190) has scored in more different Premier League games than Wayne Rooney (150). Landmark.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 30, 2017
He may not be the most reliable penalty taker around but he did dispatch the one against Swansea with aplomb and this latest United record is a credit to his longevity if nothing else.
20 - Wayne Rooney is the first Manchester United player to score 20 Premier League penalties for the club. Spot. pic.twitter.com/JwSe7bjt2v— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 30, 2017
Vincent Kompany says he has not had a “wasted season” as he looks forward to leading Manchester City’s trophy charge next season.
The Belgian skipper is hoping to end a frustrating campaign on a high by helping Pep Guardiola’s men secure a top-four Premier League finish and Champions League football.
An impressive third successive start in the goalless draw with Manchester United – on just his 10th appearance – has left Kompany feeling he is no longer a “comeback story” after constant injury woes left his City future, as well as career, in doubt.
And the 31-year-old, whose side are currently fourth and will finish the season trophyless, said: “No, nothing is wasted. I’ve improved. I’ve definitely learnt a lot this season, about myself, about football in general.
“When you are with a top-class manager you just learn, you improve, and I’ve been fortunate to be part of that.
“The manager has been brilliant with me. When I’ve been back to full fitness he has given me my chance. Our relationship is really good.
“I’m naturally always positive. I don’t give up and I don’t see the drama in things, I know it is in my hands. The comeback story is gone now and I just enjoy playing my football and that is it. I’m one of the players, that’s all.
“It has been challenging, but I don’t pay too much attention on me. It is one of continuity. I’m hoping we are going to achieve Champions League qualification and the good thing about football is that next season there will be four competitions to play for again and it is only a few months away now.
“I don’t want to be depressed about the situation of where we stand at the moment. It is not enough, but there are still a lot of positives to look forward to.”
He added: “I remain convinced we are not far off being competitive on all fronts, just looking at the performances. It is details, but we are not far off having the real deal here.
“It’s just that everything that can go against us at the moment is going against us. But it is no excuse, of course.
“The headlines after a 0-0 against United are about not getting the result. But just watch the game closely and there is something brewing.”
That “something” saw City dominate United to the extent that the 20-time champions celebrated a point at the Etihad in scenes “never” witnessed previously by Kompany in a derby.
Now he hopes their performances will be rewarded with wins, starting at relegation-threatened Middlesbrough today and taking them third.
“It has be like a cup final in every game now, it has to be,” added Kompany. “We don’t have any margins for mistakes any more.”
A third game in a week may prove too much for Kompany, although he does not go into matches worrying he could break down.
“No. I understand that a lot of people think that and I have no issue with that,” he added. “But you don’t come back if you think like this, that is the truth of it. You keep going.
“In today’s football you have a big squad and there is a purpose for that. It doesn’t really matter if you play every game consistently, it is important to perform well when you are asked to perform and I trust myself entirely to do that. Will I play every game? I’ve passed that stage now.”