Inter coach Antonio Conte praised the mentality of his squad after they secured a 1-1 draw against Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona this evening.
A wonderful second-half Christian Eriksen strike cancelled out Samir Handanovic’s own goal and moved Inter nine points clear of AC Milan in the title race, with just seven games remaining.
In an interview with Italian television broadcaster Sky Sport Italia after the final whistle, Conte declared himself happy that his side had shown no signs of complacency after building up such a healthy margin, whilst admitting they had come up against strong opposition.
“This is a match that, perhaps, in other situations we would have struggled in, especially after conceding. Instead the team reacted and were aware of their ability, never losing direction or confidence,” Conte claimed.
“We were facing a Napoli team that, when fully fit, are one of the best equipped teams for the Scudetto. They have suffered many injuries, but they remain a strong team.
“Playing this kind of match, when we could have been a little less focused than them, makes me happy. We were always focused and understood the importance of the moment, whilst not giving hope to those who are chasing us. Today we dropped two points to Milan, but we could accept it in this match.”
The former Juventus coach also praised his side’s mentality and insisted that he had seen signs of development over his two years at the helm.
“I have always said that success comes from the growth of each individual player, in many respects. This year it has happened, with good luck sometimes,” Conte added.
“I have found a group who are always ready, they were they were the first to want to get involved and fight for something important. I always tell them that personal success is good, but at the end of your career it is better to see what you have won. Winning certifies you as a player.”
Inter got back into the match through Eriksen’s strike, with the Denmark international becoming increasingly influential since January.
“The chance to work with him and have more time has helped, but also the fact that he understood that there are two phases in football. He took a while, we tried to use him in every role, even as an attacking midfielder.
“Now he is expressing himself with consistency but for me he can do much, much more. He knows it too and I am there to encourage him. The rate of intensity is also increasing and this has helped us,” Conte claimed.
With the Scudetto in sight, the coach refused to be drawn on the summer transfer window and remained focused on seeing out the season.
“We have to concentrate on the present, we honestly don’t know what will happen and what the plans will be. We don’t know anything. Talking about the transfer market makes no sense. I am very proud of this group, which has grown significantly.
“At other times we might say that this team would have lost undeservedly tonight. Instead we saw a team that knows what they are doing, knows what they want and doesn’t lose focus even if something unfortunate happens like the goal we conceded.
“We have to stay focused. What we are trying to achieve is too important. Then there will be time to think about the transfer market. Today we do not know what will happen,” Conte concluded.