Antonio Conte returned to Italy on Tuesday evening, this time hoping for a victory with Spurs as his side prepared to take on AC Milan in the Champions League round of sixteen. With the absence of Bentancur and Hojbjerg, the Italian faced a squad selection struggle – opting to deploy Sarr and Skip in the centre of the park.
It was a decision that prompted many questions ahead of kickoff, yet the pair did well in midfield and delivered a faultless performance. However, Spurs find themselves heading back to N17 with a one-goal deficit, after Brahim Diaz found the back of the net in the seventh minute.
The hosts had dominated the opening minutes, and after a flurry of free-kicks, they took a deserved lead when the Spaniard tapped home on the rebound. They continued to push for a second, with Thiaw firing a long ball over the top towards Diaz on the right flank – but his ball had far too much on it and the chance came to nothing.
Spurs had their chances too – with the best ones coming from set pieces. Son’s free kicks appeared dangerous, but there was nobody in the box able to direct them towards goal. Conte’s side’s best chance came just before the break, when Heung-min Son fired straight at Tatarasanu – before Kane hit the rebound against the crossbar. The ‘keeper eventually parried the ball away, but the England striker should really have found the back of the net and send his side into the break level.
There were a handful of yellow cards dished out in the second half – the most notable for Eric Dier, who will miss the second leg due to suspension.
Shortly after being introduced as a substitute, Charles De Ketelaere had the perfect opportunity to double his side’s lead – but the Belgian striker sent his header wide of the post, much to the relief of Spurs fans across the world. Rafael Leão whipped in a cross from the left wing soon after, though Tchiaw sent his header across goal before it trickled out for a goal-kick – and the hosts should really have been two or three goals up!
The last ten minutes was a fairly quiet affair – both teams continued to press and search for the game’s second goal, but there were no standout chances for either side. Eyes will now turn to the return fixture on the 8th of March, when Conte looks to overcome the deficit in front of 60,000 North Londoners.