Conte urges Tottenham to 'rediscover belief' after Champions League defeat at AC Milan

Premier League club beaten 1-0 at San Siro in the first leg of the last 16 tie

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte has urged his players to "rediscover that belief" after the 1-0 defeat at AC Milan in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday continued their inconsistent form.

Brahim Diaz scored the only goal of the game in the seventh minute at the San Siro, although the hosts could have taken a bigger advantage to London for the reverse fixture on March 8.

Spurs barely created anything in Milan and after Tuesday's defeat in the first leg of the last 16 matchup and the weekend's heavy loss to Leicester – coming after an impressive win over Manchester City – Conte said it was his job to give his players more confidence.

"I think some players need some more belief, especially in attack. We need to rediscover that belief in we have lost in taking on your man, but there was great effort and desire," Conte told reporters.

"My job is to give players belief in themselves ... we definitely need to try and improve."

Conte has had to deal with serious injuries to Rodrigo Bentancur and Yves Bissouma, which led to him having to pick youngsters Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr in midfield.

The Italian said the pair's performances gave him hope as he will have to do without Bentancur for the rest of the season while Bissouma needs an operation on a stress fracture to his ankle.

AC Milan v Tottenham player ratings

"To play this way in the Champions League and in San Siro in this atmosphere ... they played a really good game, I'm really happy," Conte said.

"This type of performance makes me more relaxed for the future because you consider that we could finish the season with three midfielders. I know I can count on these two players 100 per cent."

Despite the victory, Milan coach Stefano Pioli was left pondering what might have been as Charles De Ketelaere and Malick Thiaw missed golden opportunities to add to their aggregate lead late on.

Antonio Conte said he was very happy with the performances of midfielders Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr. AP

Instead the seven-time European champions will have to defend a single-goal lead in London next month after a win which gives them a chance of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2012.

"Winning 2-0 would have been a better result, because we'll have an equally difficult match in London if not more so, but I can only be satisfied about the team's performance," said Pioli.

"It's obviously good, but in football it's the next match that counts. We can take a lot of positives from this match but Saturday (at Monza) we need to get back out there and win again."

Updated: February 15, 2023, 5:51 AM