Antonio Conte believes Tottenham have taken a “step forward” this season despite Milan robbing them of their last shot at silverware on Wednesday.
Spurs failed to close a 1-0 gap in the first leg of last month’s Champions League round of 16 as they drew 0-0 in the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Despite knowing they needed a goal to tie, the Spurs failed to make a single attempt on goal in the first half and only seriously harassed Mike Meignan once in the entire game.
The Milan goalkeeper made a great save to prevent a late header from Harry Kane, which came after Christian Romero was sent off for two punitive offences.
This means that Tottenham’s wait for some kind of trophy will stretch into its 16th year, and a battle for the top four in the Premier League is all they need for this campaign.
But after failing to qualify for the Champions League in the past two seasons and failing in the European Conference League last year, Conte has focused on the positive.
“If I see a positive situation, it is that we have taken a step forward,” he told BT Sport. “Last year we played in the conference league and couldn’t make it out of the group.
“Now we have taken a step forward, but that is not enough and if we want to be competitive we have to fight.”
Spurs, who were eliminated from the FA Cup by Sheffield United last week, failed to score in three consecutive matches for the first time between April and May 2019.
In the second leg against Milan, they finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.45 compared to 1.4 for their opponents.
“This is the third game in a row that we haven’t been able to score,” Conte said. “I think the game was in balance. I think we can play much better offensively.
“I’m talking about the whole team, not just those who play in the front half of the field. We can do much better.
“I can’t say anything negative about the dedication of the players. They gave everything from start to finish.”
Wednesday marked the first time Tottenham have drawn goalless at home in any competition since it happened to Swansea City in September 2017, a 147-game streak.
Tottenham, with the exception of Kane’s late header, failed to offer any attacking threat and he was booed by the fans both at half-time and in regular time.
“In our view, we wanted to put pressure on them, but in the first half it was difficult for us to attack,” Conte said of Spurs’ preliminary approach.
“We found space to get the ball and create a one-on-one, but it was difficult for us. We felt a little pressure. I think they need to play this type of game regularly to try and get better.
“I think everyone wants to go to the next round. In the first game we missed a good chance. Milan was then without important players, like us.
“We have to keep working. We have one more game we need to recover for. We should try to reach the best possible position at the end of the season.”
The Spurs return to action on Saturday with a home game against Forest in the Premier League before heading to Southampton for their last game before the international break.