Harry Kane scored his 35th goal of the season and 150th in club football to finally overcome Palace’s resilience but it was Alli who remained the centre of attention.
The 21-year-old went down in the area under minimal contact from the impressive Wayne Hennessey and also sought a penalty after a challenge from Patrick van Aanholt, who responded by confronting him.
Alli was criticised by the Selhurst Park crowd before Gary Lineker called him “Divey Alli” on social media, where Alan Shearer had also described the incident as a “blatant dive”.
In the build-up to Sunday’s fixture, Hodgson – who, as with Kane, gave Alli his England debut – had instead dismissed suggestions the midfielder was a diver, and Pochettino said: “He is an easy target for everyone. We need to stop saying too much about him to stop helping people, the fans, creating this reputation.
“He’s so competitive and played very well but Dele is an easy target.
“Dele is such a special kid. He’s going to play. He’s going to show his quality. He won’t worry what people are saying about him.”
Asked if Alli had deserved a penalty, the 45-year-old Argentinian then said: “For me, the action of Hennessey on Ben Davies was a clear penalty.”
At the point of Alli’s appeals, Hodgson’s Palace had been on course for a valuable point that would have kept them above the bottom three by more than just goal difference, but the manager said: “He only had the option to go down.
“The way our defenders defend the situation, he had to go down to avoid them. I don’t think he was looking for a penalty.
“(The crowd getting agitated is) what happens when all the talk in the massed media is about players diving: the public jump on the bandwagon to get as much advantage as they can.”
Taken from PA Sport
The United boss said: “You can only win against the top teams with that humble attitude. We can be speaking about tactics and positions and football science but to win against the top teams the attitude has to be really special and the players showed that.
“The beginning of the game was blue. We took a little bit of time to adapt to some new positions on the pitch, the way we were playing. We scored the winning goal that I think in the end we deserved.
“We started the game with three points difference to Chelsea and we could finish with the same or with six points. It was important for us to open this gap a little bit.”
The emotions were rather different for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who criticised his players for failing to take advantage of their early superiority.
The Italian said: “For sure we must be disappointed for the final result. I think we had a good chance to get three points against a competitor for a place in Champions League but at the end we are talking about another defeat and we must be disappointed because when you have this type of situation you have to manage the game better and you must be able with experience, with maturity, to get three points.”
Asked what it would say about Chelsea if they do not qualify for the Champions League, Conte said: “I don’t know but this could be a possibility for sure.
“I am repeating the same concept many times but in this league to find a place in Champions League is not simple. There is this risk to stay out of the Champions League. We must be ready to fight, to be concentrated and to understand that this target is an important target for us but it won’t be easy.”
There was as much attention on the touchline as the pitch given the history between Mourinho and Conte but the animosity between the two men was put aside as they shook hands before and after the match.
Mourinho said: “The handshake doesn’t need any words. I think that is what me and Antonio want to show to everyone. Mourinho and Conte they are not two ordinary persons in football. We have a history, we have an image, and I’m really happy with that.”
Conte added: “You wanted to see the shake hands and we did this. Now stop.”
“Ramsey. Xhaka. Ozil. You’re walking on a football pitch at Wembley,” he said. “Why are you walking? You’re a disgrace. An absolute disgrace.
“I don’t even want to talk about them because they’ve been an absolute disgrace. Ramsey and Xhaka walking on a football pitch. Absolutely spineless.”
He added: “I don’t even like the football anymore. The last bastion has gone. Liverpool play better, Tottenham play better – there’s three or four teams that play better football than them now.
“This is a dark, dark day – the team have just not shown up.”
Neville was not the only one left unimpressed by the performance of Arsene Wenger’s men, with TV personality Piers Morgan and golfer Ian Poulter weighing in on Twitter.
We’ve given up.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 25, 2018
I wonder how many goals we’d have to lose by to force Wenger out - 8? 9? Double figures?