A 13th consecutive home win for Inter, who responded to away draws at Napoli and Spezia by picking up three points against Hellas Verona courtesy of a Matteo Darmian goal. The Italian scored the winner for the second consecutive home game after previously doing so against Cagliari.
These were the thoughts of Antonio Conte after the game:
Perhaps it wasn’t the sharpest Inter performance of the season, but how important was it to get a win like that?
“At this point of the season, the ball becomes heavy and it’s inevitable that you feel the pressure. It can’t be forgotten that this was the third game in seven days and, like I said before, many of the players are close to a significant achievement for the first time. We played excellently against Napoli and Spezia, and I feel that the side played well again today. The approach was positive and we had chances to hurt them, but then the ball kept getting heavier. To win this year would allow many players to start considering themselves as winners. The guys are feeling what this means, but let’s not forget that other big teams are dropping points. We, however, put our foot on the accelerator.”
What is it all about when you run to celebrate goals with the players?
“In that group hug, I see the strength that we’re 95 per cent of the way towards the Scudetto. Today, we faced a physical team with nothing to lose and they came here to play. Wins like this are worth nine points, not three.”
Where would you place the three Inter centre-backs compared to the other players you’ve coached in your career? Are they the foundations to your success?
“I can see a lot of similarities between them and the start of the journey with Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini because they were young guys who hadn’t won anything, and we started on a journey together. Milan, Stefan and Alessandro can do the same by being confident in their abilities and learning the right mentality. It was different at Chelsea, where I worked with players who had won things before, like David Luiz for example.”
Were you concerned when you were walking around the pitch before the match?
"Walking around the pitch with Lele Oriali has become a habit. I like looking at the pitch, I also did it as a player. Obviously, it’s also a way to relieve the tension before the match, when it seems like time stops still. There’s the desire to do battle immediately and achieve a result. What we’re doing is the reward for all the sacrifices and anxieties involved. Luckily, we’ve been bringing a lot of joy to our fans recently.
How does it feel to become the coach that is changing the trajectory of a group?
“We’ve worked a lot in the past two years, not just from a footballing perspective. We’ve really focused on the mental side of things because it’s been a very long time since Inter have been competitive. We had a good go last year as we reached the Europa League final and finished second in the league, and we’re having another go this time around. We’re close to a very important objective. The lads know that a certain attitude is required to win. Work, sacrifice and determination are all needed. You need to give up on many things, and it’s normal that there are uphill battles and obstacles along the way. In the end, however, the players are able to understand that the path that has been taken is the right one and they have complete trust in the person who’s leading them.”
Are you becoming less superstitious when it comes to the Scudetto?
"I'm not superstitious. I've been talking about the Scudetto ever since I arrived because I know there are certain expectations of me and a coach at my level can never be satisfied. However, it’s clear that you need to have a sense of proportion. At the beginning, I mentioned the figure of 1%. It was important to start from that small percentage and increase it while building something together.”
How much will Darmian's dinner cost?
"Matteo has carved out an important spot here at Inter. There wasn’t any big fanfare when he arrived, but he played for another big club in Manchester United. He’s an exceptional lad, you can always count on him. He possesses quality and is an excellent footballer in every respect. Along with his teammates, he’s doing something exceptional.”
Is Hakimi continuing to improve in Inter’s system?
“He’s growing and still has lots of room for improvement. He doesn’t always interpret things perfectly, but he’s making great strides forward in all respects and we’re very happy.”
(Photo Getty Images)