Antonio Conte said Inter ‘want to go all the way’ in the Europa League after beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in the quarter-final. ‘We never let them play the ball comfortably.’
They will face either Shakhtar Donetsk or FC Basel in the semi-final on August 17, Inter’s first major semi-final since winning the Treble in 2010.
Nicolò Barella and Romelu Lukaku had given them a 2-0 lead early doors, but Kai Havertz made it anxious until the end, even if the Nerazzurri wasted so many chances.
They also had two penalties awarded only to be revoked via VAR, so the 2-1 scoreline does not reflect this performance.
“We are very satisfied because it was a very good performance. We prepared it the right way, never let Leverkusen play the ball comfortably, we did what we worked on in training,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“As I always end up saying, we could’ve killed the game off earlier and relaxed a little. We didn’t allow many chances at all, but the fact is we had so many chances and should’ve scored more than two.
“The lads showed how hungry they were, how determined to prove that what they’re doing is important. We’ve got an opportunity to play a Europa League semi-final, so can be pleased, but from tomorrow must begin preparing for the semi-final.
“We want to achieve the maximum. We want to go all the way.”
Lukaku can’t stop scoring, as he set a new all-time record by finding the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, while it was his 31st competitive goal of the season for Inter.
“It’s difficult to talk about individuals when you have such a great team performance. Romelu is having an excellent season, supported by the team, who put everyone in a position to express themselves at their best on an individual level too.
“I’m happy for him, as he deserves all of this, but Romelu must also thank the team for putting him in the conditions to express himself in the best form of his entire career.”
Inter have certainly improved in recent months at the way they play it out from the back.
“We do a lot of work on this in training. If you find a team that presses you high up the pitch, there are memorised positional situations that give players the chance to escape that pressing. It’s all about vertical passes and finding space.
“I hear people call playing out from the back a counter-attack, but that’s not the case. You start deep and create the space left behind those defenders.
“We did well to press Bayer and cause them huge problems playing the ball. At the same time, we did well to find the right solutions. Samir Handanovic is very good at seeing those options for the pass and finding the free man.”
The coach was asked if he’ll be happier watching this game back for the performance or angrier at the number of wasted scoring opportunities?
“I can’t be angry tonight, I can only congratulate these lads on all they’ve done in Serie A, throughout the season and now in the Europa League. We’ll show the team back some situations, both positive and ones we can improve, but the video lectures aren’t about finding blame, but rather showing how to improve next time.”
Inter are already qualified for the Champions League, but winning the Europa League would bump them up from third to first seeds in the draw for the group stage.