Dele Alli says keeping his head was key after it became clear Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross was trying to provoke him on Saturday.
Tottenham strengthened their hold on fourth place in the Premier League by beating struggling Stoke 2-1 at the bet365 Stadium.
Alli set up Christian Eriksen’s first goal with a clever pass after patiently holding the ball up in the penalty area.
The 21-year-old has played up to his pantomime villain tag in recent weeks, feeding on the antagonism from the stands and putting in some of his best displays of the season.
Opposition players have also tried to provoke him, but Alli claims he now knows keeping his head is a better tactic than retaliating.
“I’ve been trying to improve a lot of aspects of my game and I wanted to keep my head,” Alli said (via ESPN).
“When the first tackle from Shawcross came in, I knew straight away what he was trying to do with it.
A few season’s back Dele would’ve reacted badly. The man has matured so much. pic.twitter.com/wyGWXvaqZI
— Ryan ⚽️??♂️[COYS/THFC] (@ryangoldy8) April 8, 2018
“He’s a nice guy and that’s the sort of player he is – he’s an aggressive player – so I didn’t want to react to him. I played my own game and I was really happy with the result.”
Alli has endured an inconsistent season so far, but a number of important goals and assists have undeniably proved his worth to the team.
The attacker’s last two performances will have given Gareth Southgate something to think after the England manager gave Alli just 22 minutes of game-time during last month’s international break.