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Conte at crossroads as AC Milan extends Tottenham’s trophy drought

LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur fell in the Champions League round of 16 stage on Wednesday as a defender Christian Romero he was sent off in a 0-0 draw with AC Milan.

Spurs needed to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit but lost by that score on aggregate after a lackluster display at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in which they managed just two shots on target. Romero brought down Rafael Leao to earn his first yellow card within the first 20 minutes and was sent off with 12 minutes remaining for another reckless lunge on Teo Hernandez.

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Draw for the round of 16 of the Champions League: all the details

In discount time, harry kane forced Milan goalkeeper mike magnan in his best save of the night with a header from a free kick by Son Heung-Min, moments before the substitution original divock it hit a pole at the other end.

While Milan may celebrate reaching the quarter-finals of Europe’s top club competition for the first time since 2011-12, Spurs bemoan another trophy-less season with a performance that will raise speculation about the manager’s future in boss Antonio Conte.

quick reaction

1. Conte’s future at a crossroads

Antonio Conte said he would “transmit my energy to the team” after returning to the Tottenham bench following gallbladder surgery that kept him in Italy for most of February. Either he didn’t do it in a disastrous way that should prompt a major rethink or he has nothing more to give. Spurs left the Champions League with barely a whimper here, a tough 0-0 draw that will only raise questions about the future of their manager, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Boos rang out at halftime and at full time. This was not a brave and heroic departure from Europe, but a tame surrender in which Conte’s side looked a mix of flat, fatigued and flawed. Spurs have often been passive in their matches before waking up in the second half and while there was minimal improvement here, the collective lack of urgency throughout was astounding given the stakes. Some frank talks are ahead.

There is a top four race to focus on – Spurs currently have a slim lead over Liverpool – but this is a club at a crossroads. They need clarity soon to plan for the summer and beyond, with or without Conte. The fans delivered their most stinging verdict yet. Some booed at halftime, more disagreed when Conte changed Dejan Kulusevsky for davinson sanchez late, but most made their anger known at the final whistle.

2. Tottenham’s trophy drought continues

The last time Tottenham won a trophy, George W. Bush was the US president, Lehman Brothers didn’t go bankrupt, and the first iPhone was on sale for less than a year. That League Cup victory in 2008 is a distant memory for so many Spurs fans, who know that their team plays in one of the best stadiums in the world and trains in one of the best centers but is still unable to win any title to prove it.

There was some degree of compromise in signing Conte given Tottenham’s desire to win in an expansive style the Italian is not famous for, but they felt it was a price worth paying given his undeniable winning record. Yet he has been caught in the same cyclical failure that has engulfed Tottenham for 15 years; For all his progress under Mauricio Pochettino, despite owning England captain Harry Kane as he chased and surpassed Jimmy Greaves’ all-time club goalscoring record, they are unable to achieve the sport’s ultimate goal of winning trophies.

There are broader problems that precede Conte, specifically an accusation made by many of ENIC’s owners and chairman Daniel Levy that they have not invested enough in the team to compete with their rivals. And that’s a debate that will resurface in earnest now that they’ve fallen short for another year.

3. Pioli achieves another milestone in Milan

Stefano Pioli has struggled to recreate the consistency of last season in which AC Milan won its first Serie A title in 11 years. They currently sit fifth in the table, 18 points behind leaders Napoli and face a fight to qualify for next year’s Champions League. However, he can now aim for a first quarter-final appearance in the competition since 2012, an achievement that should take the pressure off the 57-year-old for at least the next few weeks.

Seven-time European Cup winners Milan played with an authority befitting their record in this competition, rarely looking concerned apart from the final 10 minutes when the pace of play turned a bit more frantic as Spurs Finally, they took some risks. Last season, Pioli’s team finished last in a group that included Liverpool, Atlético de Madrid and FC Porto. Now they can make their case as one of the eight best teams in Europe.

Best and worst performers

BETTER: brahim diazFW, AC Milan.
He gave Milan poise and authority in possession, almost scoring six minutes into the second half with a low shot well saved by fraser forster.

BETTER: rafael leoFW, AC Milan.
It wasn’t his most effective night in the final third, but Spurs were terrified of his pace throughout.

BETTER: fikayo tomoriDF, AC Milan.
He marred the back line brilliantly, earning all three tackles and regaining possession eight times (only teammate Theo Hernandez managed more on both sides).

WORST: Cristian Romero, DF, Tottenham.
Banned for two wild challenges. Possibly the first player sent off while lying in the opposing technical area.

WORST: son heungminFW, Tottenham.
He had just 38 touches, the fewest by any Spurs outfield player to last 90 minutes. He recorded a shot in a game he must win.

WORST: Ivan PerisicMF, Tottenham.
He completed just nine of his 14 passes in an ineffective display before being substituted after 53 minutes.

Highlights and Highlights

The best sequence of the match came in the dying moments of stoppage time when Harry Kane forced a stunning save from AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, moments before Divock Origi’s shot hit the woodwork at the other end.

After the game: What the coaches and players had to say

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte on the game, to BT Sport: “That’s the third game in a row that we couldn’t score. I think the game was balanced. I think we can do a lot better offensively. I’m talking about the whole team, not just the front half guys.” . We can do much better.

Key statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

– With eight Champions League quarter-final appearances, AC Milan trails Juventus (12) for the most by an Italian club.

– Cristian Romero has been sent off for the eighth time in his career (both club and national team).

Until next time

Tottenham Hotspur: Sitting fourth in the Premier League standings, they will try to prevent Liverpool and Newcastle United from getting the last place in the Champions League for next season. Spurs face Nottingham Forest on the Saturday before Southampton on March 18.

AC Milan: Tied on points with AS Roma for the fourth and final Champions League spot in the Serie A table, Milan will attempt promotion with two league games next week: Salernitana on March 13 and Udinese on March 18. of March.