Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League • England

Conte throws full backing behind pair Tottenham must now rely on; admits to mistake in AC Milan defeat

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte will sleep easy following a pair of fine displays from two players he’ll be forced to rely on, though admitted a Tottenham mistake in AC Milan defeat should not have happened.

Tottenham fell to a 1-0 defeat in the away leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie with AC Milan.

Neither side entered the contest in good form and any anxiety Spurs fans felt was heightened inside seven minutes.

Stand-in goalkeeper Fraser Forster made a sublime double save but could not make it a triple when Brahim Diaz headed home from practically on the goal line.

The goal’s roots came via Cristian Romero losing an aerial duel after taking a puzzling line towards where a long ball was due to land.

Spurs dug in and were somewhat comfortable throughout the middle part of the contest. However, the final 20 minutes could’ve and perhaps should’ve produced goals at either end.

AC spurned two glorious chances of their own before Eric Dier got his header all wrong while unmarked at a corner.

The centre-half took up a great position but powered his header straight into the ground. His head in hands reaction suggested he knew the net should have bulged.

Regardless, Tottenham only have a one-goal deficit to overturn and with the second leg in north London on March 8, Conte and co. will fully expect to progress when all is said and done.

Conte admits Milan goal was avoidable

Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Conte initially said of the performance: “I think it was better today [than against Leicester].

“High intensity and we played against a good team. Don’t forget Milan last season won the league in Italy.

“I think to consider the first goal… yeah, we can do much better. We can do much better, instead, we concede a goal after only five minutes.

“Then we tried to lead the game, to score, but Milan defender very well. We had chances to score but at the end we are talking about a defeat.”

Tottenham pair stand up tall

Conte was forced into selecting the untried pairing of Oliver Skipp and Pape Sarr in central midfield.

Rodrigo Bentancur (ACL) and Yves Bissouma (ankle surgery) were absent through injury and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg served a one-match suspension. Bentancur’s season is already over, while no timeframe has yet been put on Bissouma’s recovery.

When asked how young pair Skipp and Sarr performed, Conte added: “I’m really satisfied for both players.

“Pape Sarr and Skipp played a good game. They showed the trust that we have in them.

“Also don’t forget we are with three midfielders and we may have to continue to the end of the season with these three midfielders.

“To have this type of performance from Skippy and Pape Sarr makes me more relaxed because I know I can count on them 100 percent. Then we have Hojbjerg who is a key player.”

Conte went on to praise the atmosphere in the San Siro on the night, but fired an early warning to Milan when reiterating they still have to travel to north London for the second leg.

On that front, the Italian called upon Spurs fans to “create the right atmosphere to push us on and overcome the Milan obstacle” in the return leg on March 8.

READ MORE: Tottenham to axe liability player with LaLiga ace one of two tipped to give Conte gigantic upgrade