United Exit Was ‘Right Decision’, Says Lukaku

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Lecce’s Italian defender Cristian Dell’Orco go for a header during the Italian Serie A football match Lecce vs Inter Milan on January 19, 2020 at the Via del Mare stadium in Lecce. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku believes he made the right decision to leave Manchester United for a new challenge at Inter Milan, saying he had to “re-find” himself after a difficult time at Old Trafford.

The Belgium striker joined United from Everton for £75 million ($98 million) in July 2017, scoring 42 goals in his two seasons at the club before moving to Inter in August last year.

He has been in superb form for Antonio Conte’s side, scoring 18 goals to help the club sustain a challenge for the Serie A title.

Those performances, and United’s reported interest in signing a striker this month after Marcus Rashford’s back injury, have raised questions as to the wisdom of allowing Lukaku to leave Old Trafford.

But, in an interview with Sky Sports News, the 26-year-old said the decision was his and it had worked out well for United as well.

“I think I had to re-find myself,” he said. “Last year was difficult for me on the professional side because stuff was not going how I wanted and I was not performing as well… and I just came to the conclusion that it was time for me to change the environment.

“I made my decision around March, and I went to the manager’s office (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) and I told him it was time for me to find something else.”

“I think I made the right decision and I think Manchester United now has made space for the younger players to come through so I think it was a bit of a win-win situation for both of us,” he added.

The Belgian was signed for United by Jose Mourinho and had an excellent first season, scoring 27 goals as United finished second in the Premier League.

But Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 after a disappointing start to the season, with Lukaku also unable to discover his best form.

Former Chelsea manager Conte has managed to bring the best out of Lukaku this season, pairing him with Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez to lethal effect.

Lukaku said the Italian knew how to extract the most from his whole squad but revealed he was not afraid to get tough with the players.

“The manager, he tells it straight to your face if you’re doing well or wrong,” he said.

“You work hard, you train hard and you play,” he added. “If you don’t do what he says, you don’t play. You know where you stand — and that’s what I respect about him.”

AFP

Man United To Receive $1.6m As Young Joins Inter

Manchester United’s English midfielder Ashley Young attends a team training session at the club’s training complex near Carrington, west of Manchester in north-west England on March 12, 2018.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United defender Ashley Young has agreed on a move to Serie A club Inter Milan, according to reports on Thursday.

The 34-year-old will arrive in Italy on Friday for a medical before signing an 18-month contract, Gazzetta Dello Sport reported.

United will receive 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) plus bonuses for Young who has spent the past eight-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford since arriving from Aston Villa in 2011.

Young, who has played 39 times for England, has made 261 appearances for the Premier League club and scored 19 goals. He was club captain this season but only started 10 league games.

He won the 2013 Premier League title, the FA Cup in 2016 and both the League Cup and Europa League in 2017.

Young leaves the Premier League with United in fifth, 27 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they play at Anfield on Sunday.

Inter signed Romelu Lukaku from United last summer and also have Alexis Sanchez on loan from the club.

Antonio Conte’s side are second in Serie A, two points behind champions Juventus.

AFP

Teenager Esposito Breaks 60-Year Record As Inter Go Top

Inter Milan’s Italian forward Sebastiano Esposito celebrates after scoring a penalty during the Italian Serie A football match against Genoa on December 21, 2019, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

 

Sebastiano Esposito became Inter Milan’s youngest scorer in more than 60 years on Saturday when he hit the target in a 4-0 romp against Genoa, helping his side return to the top of Serie A.

The 17-year-old put away a second-half penalty which made him the youngest Inter scorer since Mario Corso in 1958.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice with Roberto Gagliardini adding another as Inter moved level with champions Juventus at the top on 42 points.

Juve had taken top spot on Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria before heading to Saudi Arabia where they face Lazio in the Italian Super Cup on Sunday.

However, Inter are now in pole position courtesy of goal difference.

“I just saw my mum in the stands and the goal is for her,” a tearful Esposito, who is 17 years and 172 days old, told Sky Sport Italia.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night (after he was told he would start the game). I spent the whole night thinking about what would happen today.”

The teenager also hailed Lukaku who gave him the ball to take the penalty even though he could have finished the game with a hat-trick.

“Romelu is a fantastic person as well as being an extraordinary player. He told me, just go out there, make a decision and hit the ball.”

The defeat left Genoa, now without a Serie A win at Inter since 1994, second from bottom in the table, four points from safety after a 10th defeat this season.

Lukaku opened the scoring after 31 minutes, heading in a cross from Antonio Candreva.

Within a minute it was 2-0 when Lukaku teed-up Gagliardini whose shot was deflected off Cristian Romero and into the goal.

Esposito added his name to the scoresheet from the spot in the 64th minute when Kevin Agudelo fouled Gagliardini.

Lukaku’s gesture to his teenage teammate was rewarded when he hit a long-range drive which went in off the underside of the crossbar for his second of the night and his team’s fourth seven minutes later.

“I saw him in pre-season training and he just looked like a little child, even his face seems so young,” said Inter coach Antonio Conte of Esposito.

“He has really grown in the last couple of months and he has a great future ahead of him.”

Cagliari suffered their first away defeat of the season, losing 2-1 at Udinese as their Champions League hopes suffered a blow.

Rolando Maran’s side have now won just once in their last five games, claiming only a single point in their three most recent outings.

Argentine Rodrigo de Paul gave Udinese a first-half lead before Joao Pedro levelled for Cagliari in the 84th minute.

However, Ivory Coast international Seko Fofana restored Udinese’s advantage just a minute later to wrap up the three points.

Earlier on Saturday, Fiorentina fired coach Vincenzo Montella with the club struggling in 15th in Serie A.

Montella, a 45-year-old former Italy winger, managed Fiorentina from 2012-15 leading the club to two fourth-place finishes in Serie A before he was fired.

After spells in charge at Sampdoria, AC Milan and Sevilla, he returned to Florence in April.

However, Fiorentina lost 4-1 at home to Roma on Friday and have taken just two points from their last seven games.

AFP

Barca Can Hurt Inter Without Messi, Valverde Warns

Barcelona’s Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde looks on during the UEFA Champions League group F football match between FC Barcelona and SK Slavia Prague at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 5, 2019.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi’s absence for already-qualified Barcelona will not make them less able to stop Inter Milan gaining their spot in the Champions League last 16, coach Ernesto Valverde insisted Monday.

Barcelona are already through to the knockout stages as Group F winners after Messi scored and set up two more in a convincing 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund last time out, a victory which means Inter will ensure themselves a spot in the next round with a win over the La Liga leaders at the San Siro on Tuesday.

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi broke yet another record by hitting his 35th La Liga hat-trick on Saturday as Barca maintained top spot in Spain with a 5-2 win over Mallorca.

“Messi needs to rest,” Valverde told reporters. “We’re coming off many consecutive games and we have other important ones to play, so I left him at home.

“He’s a decisive player, but our goal tomorrow does not change, we want to win against Inter.

“We know what he represents for the opponents, but last year he didn’t play in both games against Inter, and we still had a high level.

“We are already qualified but it remains a game of great value.”

Messi and midfielder Sergi Roberto have been left out of Barca’s 20-man squad along with the injured Ousmane Dembele, Jordi Alba, Nelson Semedo and Gerard Pique.

The Argentine’s absence means that they will be relying on Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez to supply the goals, while teenage prodigy Ansu Fati could be fit to play.

Inter are four points behind Barca in second, level on seven points with Borussia Dortmund. The Italians need to match or better Dortmund’s result at home to Slavia Prague to qualify as their superior head-to-head record will see them through should the two clubs finish on the same number of points.

‘Heads Held High’

“They have great players like (Romelu) Lukaku and Lautaro (Martinez) who score a lot,” Valverde said of Inter’s strike duo, who have scored 24 of the team’s 40 goals this season.

“Lautaro is a great player, fast and powerful, he’s having a great season.”

Inter coach Antonio Conte also has injury worries with Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez and Roberto Gagliardini all out.

“Barcelona are calm in first place and will play without pressure and can create problems,” said 50-year-old Conte.

“We have to give everything knowing that it might not be enough.”

Barcelona beat Inter 2-1 at Camp Nou last time out, but Conte believes his Serie A leaders have grown since then.

“We played very well at Barcelona, with great courage and personality, but the defeat came thanks to their great players,” he said.

“It’s been a while, we’ve grown in some respects. But we would be fools to think we won’t suffer when Barca are in possession.”

The former Chelsea and Juventus coach hopes the home crowd of 72,000 can pull the three-time European champions through with their “heads held high”.

“Our stadium can give us a lot of positive energy and I’m sure it will,” added the Italian.

“We all want to get to the last 16, it would be a prestigious achievement.”

‘Newborn’ Inter Face Tough Champions League Test, Says Conte

 

Antonio Conte said on Tuesday that Inter Milan faced a tough task in Wednesday’s Champions League clash at Slavia Prague if they are to get the win they need to keep their hopes alive.

When the two teams met at the San Siro in the opening round of group games Inter needed a goal two minutes into stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.

“We are a better team than when we played the first game against Slavia,” Conte said. “The team has been growing continually, we are far more compact and better prepared.”

“We will play our game, but we know it will be a tough match and we will definitely suffer just as Barcelona and Borussia did here.”

Inter need a win to retain hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages. They have just four points from four games and sit third in the group, three behind Dortmund and four adrift of leaders Barcelona.

“We are playing for a big chance,” said Conte. “I know the odds are not fantastic really, but we’ll try to win.”

“I hope we can keep going in Europe because we need this type of game to keep improving.”

“We have started a path,” Conte said. “We are at the dawn. The team is ‘newborn’ but at the same time it is essential to continue in this competition to gain experience.”

Conte already has Inter in contention in Italy. They won 3-0 at Torino on Saturday to stay a point behind Serie A leaders Juventus.

But they lost midfielder Nicolo Barella, their scorer in the first meeting, who limped off and is due to undergo a surgery on his right knee.

Alexis Sanchez will miss Wednesday’s clash with an ankle injury while Matteo Politano is out with a twisted ankle.

Conte said Inter would also be without Stefano Sensi, Kwadwo Asamoah and Roberto Gagliardini but added it “makes to weep before the game over the absence of this or that player.”

– ‘Well prepared’ –

Last-place Slavia have two points from draws at Inter and Barcelona, but they have given all their rivals a hard time.

“They are physical, they run a lot, we could see that in the first game which was really hard,” said Inter defender Stefan de Vrij.

“But I think we have improved a lot and we are very well prepared for tomorrow’s game,” added the Dutch centre back.

Slavia need a win to stay in contention for at least a Europa League spot.

“If we want to play in the spring, we know we have to win tomorrow,” said Trpisovsky.

“That’s the only thing that matters to me, we haven’t got a single point from our home games and we simply want to win.”

“I believe we will convert the chances we will create, that’s what matters the most,” added the coach whose players have only scored twice in their four Champions League games so far.

Slavia were held to a goalless draw at Olomouc in the Czech top flight on Saturday but they retained their 11-point lead over Viktoria Pilsen.

Against Inter, they will be without centre back David Hovorka, sidelined with a torn knee ligament. Midfielder Lukas Masopust is uncertain with a minor injury.

In the last round of games in December, Inter face Barcelona at the San Siro while Slavia travel to Dortmund.

AFP

Inter Coach Conte Under Police Protection After Bullet Threat

Inter Milan's Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts prior to the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Hellas Verona on November 9, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP
Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts prior to the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Hellas Verona on November 9, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte is receiving police protection after a threatening letter containing a bullet was sent to him through the post, Italian media reported on Saturday.

According to Corriere della Sera, the former Italy and Chelsea manager received the anonymous threatening letter containing a bullet in recent days.

Serie A club Inter Milan later said in a statement to Italian news agency Ansa that “the letter arrived at the club and not personally to the coach”.

“In relation to the news published today, Inter Milan states that Antonio Conte did not personally receive any threatening letters and, consequently, he did not go in person to file a complaint,” the club statement said.

“It was the club that received a letter and, as is the practice in this kind of situation, it contacted the competent authorities.”

An investigation has now been launched while Conte is receiving police surveillance outside his home and at Inter’s training ground, Gazzetta Dello Sport reported.

Meanwhile, Conte’s wife Elisabetta Muscarello wrote on social media: “For the record: the story of the bullet is a hoax!”

Conte joined Inter in the summer and the Italian outfit are currently one point behind his former club Juventus at the top of Serie A.

The 50-year-old led Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2014 before taking over as Italy national coach.

He also spent two seasons at Chelsea, winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge.

Conte took over from Luciano Spalletti, who led Inter to a fourth-place finish last season.

 

AFP

Champions League: Inter Milan Beat Dortmund, Boost Last 16 Hopes

Dortmund’s Swiss goalkeeper Roman Buerki (Rear) deflects a penalty shot by Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match Inter Milan vs Borussia Dortmund on October 23, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Lautaro Martinez and Antonio Candreva scored in either half to boost Inter Milan’s Champions League last 16 hopes on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Group F rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Argentina forward Lautaro Martinez continued his fine form scoring after 22 minutes in the San Siro, but missed a chance for a second from the penalty spot eight minutes from time.

But Candreva sealed the three points a minute from time to move Antonio Conte’s side move off the bottom of Group F having fallen 2-1 to Barcelona and holding Slavia Prague 1-1.

Inter join Dortmund on four points with Barcelona top with seven points from three games.

The Germans suffered their first defeat of the campaign after a 2-0 win over Slavia and holding Barcelona to a goalless draw.

Stefan de Vrij sent the ball through for Martinez in the opening half an hour with the Argentine beating the offside trap as well as goalkeeper Roman Burki from close range.

The 22-year-old’s goal, his second consecutive in the Champions League after scoring against Barcelona and fifth in four games for Inter, was confirmed by VAR.

Inter could thank captain Samir Handanovic for keeping their advantage into the break with the goalkeeper diving low to clear a Jadon Sancho angled drive.

Candreva sent a shot over just after the break as Inter pushed to close off the game.

Conte gave 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito his Champions League debut coming on after an hour in place of Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku.

Handanovic again did well to deny Julian Brandt after 64 minutes, with Martinez shooting just wide after 73 minutes.

Dortmund’s best chance came late when Thorgan Hazard broke down the left to send through for Sancho but Marcelo Brozovic cleared the danger.

Esposito earned a penalty for Inter as he raced towards goal forcing a foul from Dortmund’s Mats Hummels to the delight of the 60,000 crowd at the San Siro.

Burki denied Martinez a brace from the spot but Candreva powered forward with a minute of normal time to play to seal victory with his fifth European goal leaving Burki with no chance.

AFP

Inter Milan Keep Pace With Juventus As Sampdoria Hold Roma

FromL) Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez and Sassuolo’s Italian goalkeeper Andrea Consigli go for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo vs Inter Milan on October 20, 2019 at the Mapei stadium in Reggio-Emilia. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan held off a late Sassuolo surge to win 4-3 and keep pace with leaders Juventus in Serie A on Sunday as Claudio Ranieri settled for a goalless draw against former club Roma in his first game as Sampdoria coach.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez each bagged a brace for Inter in a seven-goal thriller to keep Antonio Conte’s side second, a point behind Juventus who beat Bologna 2-1 on Saturday.

The match at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium was briefly interrupted before the break after a parachutist inexplicably landed on the pitch just as Lukaku was about to take a penalty.

The man was quickly led off by security agents as players and fans looked on bewildered. Then the former Manchester United striker slotted in to give Inter a 3-1 lead.

Martinez had opened the scoring after two minutes. He added a penalty after 71 minute, following Lukaku’s quick-fire double on 38 and 45 minutes.

Inter were in control 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, when Antonio Conte brought on winger Matteo Politano and midfielder Valentino Lazaro for their first appearances this season.

Then Filip Djuricic (74) and Jeremie Boga (81) hit back for the hosts to add to Domenic Berardi’s first-half goal.

Inter held on for a win after consecutive defeats against Barcelona in the Champions League and Juventus in Serie A.

“Once it goes to 3-1 and 4-1, it should be over,” said Lukaku who has now scored five Serie A goals in eight games.

“In the first half, we did everything well. However, we should have scored in the first 15 minutes after the restart to really kill off the match.

“The positive we take is that we got the three points, but we need to defend better than that.

“It was very important to get this win.”

Sassuolo fell to their fifth loss of the season and sit 16th just above the relegation zone.

“For more than an hour we played very well, then there was a blackout that we will analyse in detail,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini speaking as Conte missed the post-match conference because of illness.

“We did well, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

AS Roma’s injury crisis grew worse as they lost both Bryan Cristante and Nikola Kalinic early as they settled for a fourth draw in eight games against Ranieri’s basement club Sampdoria.

Edin Dzeko came on for Kalinic with his face protected by a mask after breaking a cheekbone two weeks ago.

The Romans also played the final five minutes a man down after Justin Kluivert was sent off for a second yellow card.

Roma fall to sixth in the table behind Cagliari who beat SPAL 2-0 as Sampdoria stay bottom but take their first point in four games.

Ranieri said he had made progress.

“I’m satisfied especially after only a week training together and against a very good Rome,” said Ranieri, who turned 68 on Sunday. “Now let me have time to get to know the players and then we will try to find solutions to score.”

Stefano Okaka’s header was enough to give struggling Udinese their second win of the season as Torino slipped to ninth.

Stefano Pioli takes charge of his first game as AC Milan coach later Sunday against Lecce.

Sanchez Undergoes Ankle Surgery

Alexis Sanchez

 

Chile forward Alexis Sanchez has undergone surgery in Barcelona after picking up an ankle injury on international duty, his Italian club Inter Milan confirmed on Wednesday.

Sanchez hobbled off in the 88th minute of a goalless draw in the friendly against Colombia in Alicante on Saturday.

Inter said that Sanchez underwent a consultation with Dr Ramon Cugat in Barcelona on Wednesday morning.

“The visit confirmed the diagnosis of the Inter medical staff and the decision was made to proceed with surgery on the left ankle,” the Serie A club said in a statement.

“The operation was performed in the afternoon on the peroneus longus tendon and it went exactly as planned.”

Medical tests in Milan on Tuesday revealed damage to a tendon in his left ankle and Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said he expected the forward could be out for up to three months.

Sanchez joined Inter on loan from Manchester United this season, but has made just four appearances.

The 30-year-old was sent off in his first full start after scoring in a 3-1 win over Sampdoria.

Inter are second in the Italian league one point behind defending champions Juventus after seven matches.

AFP

Sanchez Awaits Decision On Ankle Surgery

Alexis Sanchez attends a training session at La Manga Club Football Centre in Cartagena on October 11, 2019. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Inter Milan on Tuesday said Chile forward Alexis Sanchez will see a specialist in Barcelona to determine if he needs surgery for a serious ankle injury sustained on international duty.

Sanchez hobbled off in the 88th minute of a goalless draw in the friendly against Colombia in Alicante on Saturday.

He underwent medical tests in Milan on Tuesday which revealed damage to a tendon in his left ankle.

Inter said Sanchez, 30, will travel to Barcelona to consult with surgeon Professor Ramon Cugat on Wednesday to establish whether an operation is required.

Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said on Monday he that the forward could be out for up to three months.

“We have to see what diagnosis they make in the club, because it is decisive for us,” the Chilean coach said.

“If there is surgery we could lose him two to three months, if not, it could be a matter of weeks. That depends on the club. They own the player.”

Chile play Guinea on Tuesday in another friendly, also in the Spanish resort, but Rueda said he was worried that the former Arsenal and Manchester United player might miss the start of South American World Cup qualifying in March.

Sanchez joined Inter on loan from Manchester United this season, but has made just four appearances.

He was sent off in his first full start after scoring in a 3-1 win over Sampdoria.

Inter are second in the Italian league one point behind defending champions Juventus after seven matches.

AFP

Suarez At The Double As Barcelona Break Down Impressive Inter

 

Luis Suarez scored a scintillating double and the returning Lionel Messi set up the winner as Barcelona came from behind to beat Inter Milan in a thrilling contest at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Lautaro Martinez fired Inter ahead after just two minutes and Antonio Conte’s side, mean in defence and ruthless on the break, looked capable of pulling off a historic victory in Group F.

But Suarez broke down the Italians’ determined back-line with a stunning volley just before the hour and then finished off a weaving Messi run in the 84th minute to complete a pulsating 2-1 win.

Inter had never beaten Barcelona away from home in the Champions League but were the better side for long spells, particularly in the first half when they should have added to their one-goal lead.

Instead, Barca’s deadly duo came up trumps again, Suarez breaking through just as the hosts looked to be running out of ideas before Messi, back from injury, teed up his partner for the decisive second.

Inter play Juventus at home on Sunday, sitting top of Serie A after winning all of their six games so far and on this evidence, they could go far in Europe too.

Barcelona will be wary of the return fixture at the San Siro in December, which could yet decide who wins this group.

For Ernesto Valverde’s team, a hard-fought victory, combined with Messi’s return, will come as a welcome boost to morale and momentum after consecutive victories in La Liga steadied the ship following a bumpy start.

While they had their star striker back for only his second start of the season, Inter were without theirs, Romelu Lukaku ruled out with a thigh strain.

The first half was an engrossing battle of control against counter-attack as Barcelona had 67 per cent of the ball but Inter more of the clear-cut chances.

The pattern was set by Inter scoring early, after 122 seconds, as Gerard Pique was pulled out of position and Martinez sprinted into the gap, holding off Clement Lenglet before finishing inside the far post.

For half an hour, Barcelona played well, switching the ball from one side to the other in an attempt to dislodge the dogged Inter defence.

But the threat of their opponents on the break was always lurking and as the half wore on, Inter looked increasingly likely to grab a second.

Antonio Candreva scored but was ruled offside, Nicolo Barella would have but Nelson Semedo made a last-ditch block while Martinez and Alexis Sanchez both went close, the former drawing an excellent save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Whistles in stands

By the end, Barca were relieved to reach half-time, even if the whistle on the pitch was greeted by a scattering of whistles in the stands too.

Arturo Vidal replaced Sergio Busquets before the hour and made a difference, meeting an Antoine Griezmann cut-back before feeding Suarez for the equaliser.

Suarez still had a lot to do when the clipped ball came over to him on the edge of the box but the Uruguayan caught it perfectly in the air with his right foot and sent it flying into the net.

Barca wanted a winner. Vidal found Messi, who slid in Griezmann but he could only find the side-netting. Griezmann was replaced by Ousmane Dembele, who fired over.

The game looked to be drifting towards a draw until Messi intervened. Collecting the ball on the right, he spun around one defender, then jinked inside another before passing to Suarez, whose first touch pushed the ball perfectly into the area. From there, the finish was simple.

Conte’s Inter Shocked By ‘Ruthless’ Slavia Prague

Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte gives instructions during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague on September 17, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte insisted he was to blame for misjudging opponents Slavia Prague after the Chinese-owned club rescued a disappointing 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against the Czech outsiders on Tuesday.

Substitute Nicolo Barella scored eight minutes into stoppage time in the San Siro after Nigerian forward Peter Olayinka put the Czech club ahead in the 63rd minute.

“Slavia Prague attacked us with intensity and showed a ruthless streak,” said Conte.

“We didn’t do well in terms of finding the right solutions and struggled too much.”

It was a draw that had the taste of defeat as the Italian team left the pitch heads bowed.

“A point or zero, today is the same thing, my feeling must be the feeling of the players,” said Conte.

“There must be no player who goes home happy. You have to go home pissed off, thinking about what to do to avoid this kind of performance.”

Slavia Prague are top of Group F ahead of Inter followed by heavyweights Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund who settled for a goalless drew in Germany.

“This isn’t the kind of football we want to play and why we train,” continued Conte.

“I’m the one who’s primarily responsible, for selections made and obviously I didn’t make the lads understand what I wanted from them well enough.”

Olayinka, who has previously played in Albania and Belgium, pounced after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had saved from Jaroslav Zeleny.

However, Inter equalised when a Stefano Sensi free-kick rattled off the bar and the ball came out to Barella, whose shot found the net with the aid of a deflection.

Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar then made a fine reaction save from a Romelu Lukaku header in the 97th minute, and a draw was the least the visitors deserved.

Slavia are among the longest shots with bookmakers to win the Champions League in their first appearance in the group stage since 2007-08.

Inter came into their Champions League campaign with optimism after winning their opening three games of the season in Serie A under new coach Conte and but are already at risk of exiting in the group stage for the second season running.

“I’m not going to talk about individuals because the whole team was under par today,” said Conte.

“They (Slavia) played in a European manner, believing and executing the game at high intensity.

“They tried to bring a high pace, a huge pressing, while we were not good at finding solutions.

“In other matches we found teams that waited for us in their half, while they attacked us and we had to find different solutions.”

AFP