Dele Alli penalty for Tottenham could be significant as handball debate reignited in thrashing of Maccabi Haifa

Dan Kilpatrick
·4-min read

Three down, one to go. Tottenham's third game in five days was both eventful and ultimately supremely comfortable, as they beat Maccabi Haifa 7-2 to book a place in the Europa League group stage.

It was not entirely plain sailing for Spurs, who were briefly stunned by Tjaronn Chery's brilliant equaliser, but they never looked back once Lucas Moura had restored the lead.

The scale of their victory was exactly what Jose Mourinho would have wanted and allowed the Spurs manager to look ahead to the final fixture of this unprecedented week, at Manchester United on Sunday.

Mourinho replaced Giovani Lo Celso at half-time after the Argentine had scored two cultured finishes and hooked Harry Kane as soon as the striker had completed his hat-trick after 75 minutes.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was also given a rest in the second half. Dele Alli put the icing on the cake by scoring Spurs' seventh from the penalty spot in stoppage time, having won their second spot-kick of the night with a wonderful piece of skill.

Playing two one-off cup matches 48 hours apart could have derailed Spurs' season and left them fighting on just two fronts before the campaign had really got going.

Instead, they have already pulled off a scalp by beating London rivals Chelsea with a much-changed team in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday and this was another night of positives against the Israeli side.

If they can beat Manchester United on Sunday, it would cap quite the week and leave optimism sky-high, particularly with Gareth Bale and Heung-min Son due to be fit after the international break.

Dele penalty could be significant


Alli was conspicuous by his absence again, the midfielder returning to the squad but having to settle for a place on the bench – despite Mourinho praising his professionalism on the eve of the match.

Alli's omission from the 18 against Chelsea was hard to justify on purely footballing terms, particularly when Gedson Fernandes started, but against Maccabi it made sense.

Kane nominally started at centre-forward but was very rarely Spurs' most advanced player, frequently dropping back to number 10 – in the space that might have been occupied by Alli – as Lucas, Steven Bergwijn and Lo Celso ran ahead of him.

Kane has already demonstrated his quality as a playmaker with four assists in the win over Southampton and he bagged another here with a pass for Lo Celso. Alli was introduced for the Argentine at half-time and looked rusty, failing to make an impact until stoppage time.

But his moment was well worth the wait, as he won a penalty with a sublime nutmeg before stepping up to convert it himself. It felt significant that Alli had the confidence to pull off such a piece of skill and it may prove something of a turning point for the 24-year-old, even if Mourinho remained passive in his seat.

Davies steps up

(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

The arrival of Sergio Reguilon has left Ben Davies under pressure and the Spaniard's promising debut against Chelsea suggested the changing of the guard at left-back could happen even more quickly than expected.

Reguilon has many of the qualities lacking in the dependable Davies – principally lightning speed and a desire to get forward – and he promises to offer a new dimension to a Spurs side that has previously played with just one attacking full-back.

Davies, though, is clearly not going to take the situation lying down and he offered a brilliant response against Maccabi, finishing with three assists. Inside 90 seconds, the Welshman exchanged passes with Bergwijn and crossed for Kane to open the scoring and he also set up Lo Celso's first during a scramble in the box.

Davies also won the controversial penalty for Kane's second and Spurs' fifth goal with another fierce cross that struck a Maccabi arm. The Isarelis may not be Chelsea, but Davies could hardly have done more to remind Mourinho that he, too, can be a threat in the final third.

Handball debate reignited

(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Confusion and consternation about football's new handball law is not, it seems, exclusive to the Premier League. In the space of four second-half minutes, both sides were awarded a penalty for handball, providing yet more ammunition, as if it was needed, for critics of the new interpretation of IFAB's law.

First, Matt Doherty was penalised for the second time this season when the ball was flicked against his side from close range. It felt like the worst handball decision against Spurs since at least Newcastle on Sunday and, in fairness, it would have been unlikely to be given in the Premier League going forward due to the proximity and position of the right-back's arm.

Had there been VAR here, it might also have been overturned. Fortunately, Spurs were already 4-1 up, so Nikita Rukavytsya's goal counted for little, particularly when his team-mate Ernest Mabouka was penalised minutes later, allowing Kane to score his second from the spot.

Again, there was little the defender could do to get his arm out of the way of Davies' cross. It was another bad night for the new law and the best thing you could say was that referee Ruddy Buquet was consistent with both teams.

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Tottenham qualify for Europa League group stage as Kane nets treble