Tottenham Hotspur 2, Southampton 1
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hailed Dele Alli’s versatility after the attacking midfielder fired the club to a 10th consecutive Premier League home win.
Alli’s 18th goal of a prolific season cemented Spurs’ grip on second place, as top-four rivals Manchester City and Liverpool drew, and kept the north Londoners 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.
That first-half penalty, after Christian Eriksen had fired the hosts in front, proved decisive as Southampton fought their way back into the match through James Ward-Prowse’s goal.
Alli’s adaptability is proving particularly valuable to Pochettino as Tottenham begin a crucial spell of several weeks without injured leading scorer Harry Kane.
“Dele always surprises you and you can’t guess him. He has an unbelievable personality and everything is possible with him,” said the Spurs boss.
“It’s difficult to sum him up because he likes to run into the box. In the box he looks like a striker because he’s very smart and outside the box he plays like a midfielder.”
Pochettino joked: “I saw him at 17 playing for Milton Keynes as a holding midfielder. Maybe one day he will play like a goalkeeper or a centre back or fullback.”
Tottenham’s extraordinary form at White Hart Lane means they remain on course to go a whole top-flight campaign unbeaten at home for the first time since 1964-65.
Eriksen needed just 14 minutes to set them on their way to a 13th successive victory at the ground in all competitions with his third goal in five matches.
The Denmark midfielder took a pass in his stride as he cut in from the right before sweeping a precise low shot from 20 yards past Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster and into the bottom-left corner.
Forster swatted away a header from former Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld as Spurs chased a second goal, and the visitors’ hopes suffered a blow when striker Manolo Gabbiadini limped off.
It got worse for them on 32 minutes when Alli tumbled over a challenge by Steven Davis just inside the penalty area and beat Forster from the resulting spot-kick.
Ward-Prowse handed Claude Puel’s team a lifeline in the 52nd minute when he scored from close range after Alderweireled had failed to cut out left-back Ryan Bertrand’s low cross.
It was Ward-Prowse’s third goal of the season and came just days after the 22-year-old midfielder was named in the senior England squad for the first time.