The hosts were well worth their win thanks to some electric counter-attacking with Alli scoring in each half. Their third goal, a rare strike from Moussa Sissoko, was the pick of the bunch. But Harry Wilson’s late brace made things a lot closer than they should have been.
Mourinho had joked upon his arrival that he must have been watching Alli’s brother play of late, so low had the England man’s form dipped. There was no doubting which sibling was on display in this match, however, as the 23-year-old looked every inch the man who received his second consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year award two years ago.
“I don’t need to speak,” said Mourinho, teeing himself up to speak, “because the best thing can happen to a coach is when you don’t have to speak about a player because everyone else does and for the right reasons. [Alli] is playing really, really well, scoring goals, assisting and working hard.
“I didn’t know him [before arriving at Spurs]. I didn’t know much, just the quality and that was the direction I went. For me, Dele is not a midfield player. I prefer him like he’s playing; close to Harry following some dynamic that we train but also a bit of freedom to associate with attacking players. I think this is the best position for him.”
It was odd that this victory, following previous frenetic successes against West Ham and Olympiakos, should feel so familiar. Neither was it reminiscent of Mourinho, but of Spurs under their previous boss. It was Mauricio Pochettino who created the Alli-Kane dynamic, only to leave it behind in his later seasons. The same can be said of Toby Alderweireld’s quarterback passing, which was in fashion, then out, and here against Bournemouth helped set up the first two goals.
The opener came in the 21st minute and it began with the Belgian defender pinging a pass from his own half to the penalty area. The tactic, once so familiar, caught the visitors out completely and then what looked like a heavy touch from Son Heung-min became a cool pass to Alli who slotted the ball under Aaron Ramsdale to score.
Mourinho celebrated by fist-bumping Callum Hynes, the ballboy who set off the move to Tottenham’s third goal against Olympiakos in midweek and who had eaten lunch with the team before this match.
Alli scored his second five minutes after the restart and it was an even simpler affair, taking another 60-yard Alderweireld assist on his chest and bursting between Steve Cook and Jack Stacey to finish under Ramsdale.
Eddie Howe bemoaned his team’s failure to deal with such a tactic and insisted they had prepared for it. “It was something we’d discussed and worked on”, he said “But sometimes it doesn’t look like it.”
The pick of the goals was Spurs’ third, a cracking volley from Sissoko at the far post after another sparkling counter involving Alli and Son. Not only a beauty but a collector’s item, it was the Frenchman’s third goal for the club in three-and-a-half years.
Then came the Bournemouth comeback, enabled by Tottenham lethargy, and a series of tactical reorgnisations on Mourinho’s part, as much as it was by the visitors’ determinations.
Wilson, who had been substituted at half-time in last week’s defeat at Wolves, emerged as a second-half substitute here and first curled home a trademark 25-yard free-kick into the top right corner before finishing through a crowd of players when well found by the Dutch winger Arnaut Danjuma in the last knockings of added time.
It is now three defeats on the bounce for Bournemouth and their play was promising and fragile in equal measure. That is a mixture that has characterised their miraculous growth under Howe but he would rather it were not.
“We fought brilliantly last week and we did it again today,” he said. “We know what we’re capable of, but need to show it on a consistent basis. It was a great effort from the lads in coming back, showing the character we needed because at 3-0 down it was difficult for us. The first two goals killed us.”