Antonio Conte said Inter ‘are alive’ after the 3-2 thriller at Borussia Monchengladbach. ‘If you are not a team, you don’t come here and win,’ thanking certain players for being ‘reliable.’
Matteo Darmian’s opener was cancelled out by Alassane Plea on the stroke of half-time, but Romelu Lukaku took control after the break with a brace to win 3-2.
It means the Nerazzurri can reach the Champions League Round of 16 if they beat Shakhtar Donetsk and the other game between Real Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach does not end in a draw.
“Gladbach are in an excellent period of form, in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League. If you are not a team, tactically, physically, in terms of character, you don’t come here and win,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“We absolutely deserved to win and could’ve frankly avoided suffering quite so much towards the end. We beat the group leaders and we are alive. I thank the lads, they had the right spirit. When they have this desire to help each other out and be a real team, we cause problems for the opposition.”
Lukaku said he is one of the 25 and doesn’t see himself as a leader.
“Romelu is right. What I ask of the lads is to increase their level of responsibility, each and every one, because if they all do that, then we can become an ambitious side.
“Performances like this prove the team is there, we are united, we’re all working in the same direction and want to give our fans joy.”
Conte was asked what happened during half-time and reveals the hairdryer treatment was not his approach.
“Conceding that equaliser on the stroke of half-time against the run of play could’ve killed us. We analysed some situations during the break, as we made some mistakes towards half-time, but these lads needed my support at that moment. I told them we had to keep going and rediscover the quality we had early in the game and that we’d be rewarded with the victory.
“I am glad that I was proved right, because when a coach talks and those things don’t happen, you risk losing their trust!”
The midfield was particularly impressive in Germany this evening, with Marcelo Brozovic taking centre stage.
“We did well as a team. Inevitably, the midfield can be the difference in a match. Don’t forget, this was Brozovic’s first game back since COVID. Nicolò Barella is playing constantly and had a calf problem at half-time, but we had Stefano Sensi and Christian Eriksen who provide quality, but not as much defensive strength as the others.
“We ran some risks by keeping Barella out there. Brozovic’s last-gasp sliding tackle shows that when he puts that determination in, he really can be extraordinary. Roberto Gagliardini is a reliable player, in every sense,” continued Conte.
“Barella is 24 years old and has grown so much since last season. He can and must still improve a great deal. The same goes for Bastoni, who is also doing very well. Let’s say these are lads you can rely on in every sense and it’s my job to help them mature.
“Darmian came from a period in England, then Parma, but we believed in him because he’s reliable. He can also give Achraf Hakimi the chance to grow with patience and not too much pressure.”