Antonio Conte maintains Inter would’ve beaten Milan in the Coppa Italia even without Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card and confirms Christian Eriksen is staying. ‘Nobody will arrive, nobody will leave.’
Eriksen got the winner with a stoppage-time free kick, after Romelu Lukaku’s penalty cancelled out the Ibrahimovic opener, but Milan were down to 10 men from the 58th minute.
“We are in the semi-final, the second year in a row we’ve made it here, so the players deserve credit for having the right approach from start to finish,” Conte told RAI Sport.
“It was a tough game, Milan are a strong team who are top of the table, so eliminating them in the quarter-finals is something to be happy about.
“Milan have a lot of quality too, but even 11 against 11 we had the chances to turn it around. I thought the result until the winner wasn’t fair. We took the initiative throughout, their goalkeeper was Man of the Match.
“Again tonight, though, we have to reflect on this tendency to create so much and not convert enough chances. We need to be more determined in front of goal and we cannot continue to do this, or we do end up not winning games we deserve.”
The game was overshadowed by the brawl at half-time between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku, in which the former Manchester United teammates exchanged harsh words and had to be physically kept apart.
Both were booked, Ibrahimovic then received a second yellow card on 58 minutes, so Milan capitulated down to 10 men with a Lukaku penalty and Christian Eriksen free kick.
“It’s a derby, that’s not a walk in the park. It’s inevitable both teams felt the tension, so we want to dedicate this victory to our fans, especially those who came out to cheer us on in the team bus. We want to share this joy with them.
“Now let’s concentrate on Saturday, a difficult game against Benevento, then we’ll think about the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.”
Lukaku has never been so furious in an Inter jersey, did he tell Conte what Ibrahimovic had said to so anger him?
“To be honest, I’ve been a player, so I know that during a game tempers can flare and situations occur when you get angry. The important thing is to keep it in the right dimension.
“It was good to see Romelu so concentrated and focused. Ibra has the determination of a winner, a warrior, and I think Romelu is growing in that aspect. I can only be happy to see him fired up.”
Eriksen came off the bench and scored the winner with a trademark free kick, his first goal of the season. Does that mean the Dane is off the market?
“For a month now I’ve been saying the same thing: this is the Inter squad. Nobody will arrive, nobody will leave. I keep saying it and nobody seems to believe me.
“We are working with Eriksen on a tactical level to find an alternative for Brozovic, because we don’t have someone like that in the squad.
“Christian is a very intelligent lad, he has quality, he’s part of the project and I am happy he scored that goal. I really wanted him to take it, as we all know the quality he has from set plays.
“He’s very shy, so I hope this goal can shake him up and make him come out of his shell. We all like him, he’s a good lad, perhaps too good! He needs to be more determined.”
Inter are fighting Milan for the Scudetto and will now face Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-final, to be played over two legs, with Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi suspended for the first game.
“They will certainly be two difficult games, the lads must all be ready to play the way they did this evening.
“It’s inevitable there is a lot of expectation around me and my work, but you need to go through the journey and be given time to do the work.
“I think, unlike some other clubs, at Inter people always see the glass half-empty rather than half-full. I think these lads are improving, we need a bit more time, it’s a strange time for everyone off the field more than on it and I am proud to be the ‘chief’ of these lads who give their all for Inter.”