Conte: Tottenham have taken a step forward this season

By Sports Desk March 08, 2023

Antonio Conte believes Tottenham have taken "a step forward" this season, despite their final chance of silverware being ended by Milan on Wednesday.

Spurs were unable to overturn a 1-0 deficit from last month's Champions League last-16 first leg as they played out a 0-0 draw in the return fixture at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Despite knowing they needed a goal to stay in the tie, Spurs failed to muster a single attempt on target in the first half and only seriously troubled Mike Maignan once all game.

The Milan goalkeeper produced a fine save to keep out Harry Kane's late header, which came after Cristian Romero was sent off for two bookable offences.

It means Tottenham's wait for a trophy of any sort will stretch into a 16th year, with a top-four battle in the Premier League all they have to fight for this campaign.

But after failing to qualify for the Champions League in the past two seasons, and struggling in the Europa Conference League last year, Conte is focusing on the positives.

"If I have to see a positive situation, it's that we had a step forward," he told BT Sport. "We played in the Conference League last year and weren't able to get out of the group. 

"Now we took a step forward but it is not enough and if we want to be competitive, we have to fight."

Spurs, eliminated from the FA Cup by second-tier Sheffield United last week, have failed to net in three straight games for the first time since between April and May 2019.

They finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.45 in their second leg against Milan, compared to 1.4 for their opponents.

"That is the third game in a row that we were not able to score," Conte said. "I think the game was in the balance. I think we can do much better offensively. 

"I speak about the whole team, not only those who play in the front half of the field. We can do much better.

"I can't tell anything negative about the commitment of the players. They gave everything from the start to the end."

Wednesday marked the first time Tottenham have been held to a goalless draw at home in any competition since doing so against Swansea City in September 2017, a run spanning 147 games.

Tottenham, bar Kane's late header, failed to offer any sort of attacking threat and were booed off both at half-time and full-time by their supporters.

"In our mind we wanted to put pressure on them with intensity, but in the first half we found it difficult offensively," Conte said of Spurs' tentative approach.

"We found space to receive the ball and create one-v-ones, but we struggled. We felt a bit of pressure. I think they need to play regularly this type of game to try to improve.

"I think everybody wants to go to the next round. In the first game we lost a good chance. Milan were without important players then, like us.

"We have to continue to work. We have another game that we have to recover for. We have to try to reach the best possible position at the end of the season."

Spurs return to action on Saturday with a home match against Forest in the Premier League, before travelling to Southampton in their final game before the international break.

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