Antonio Conte wants to “raise the bar” for his Inter youngsters after Nicolo Barella sparked a late fightback in the Nerazzurri’s 3-1 win at Cagliari on Sunday.
Inter peppered the visitors’ goal only to find home goalkeeper Alessio Cragno in inspired form and trailed to Riccardo Sottil’s 42nd-minute goal at Sardegna Arena.
Former Cagliari midfielder Barella levelled in the 77th minute with a sublime volley and it was his corner from which Danilo D’Ambrosio put Inter ahead before Romelu Lukaku rounded out the comeback in injury time.
In total, Barella had two shots on target, finished with an assist, completed 50 of 61 passes for an 82 per cent success rate and put in seven crosses – two of which were “good crosses” as defined by Opta.
Speaking to DAZN, Conte said: “Barella is a young footballer with important qualities, he needs some self-discipline to control all the energy that he has. He was playing for Cagliari two years ago, he is improving now.
“These players can become top players, we need to work with them and try to raise the bar and make them become players who leave the mark. You only leave the mark by winning, not participating.”
— Inter (@Inter_en) December 13, 2020
It was not such a happy day for Christian Eriksen, who was handed just a fourth start in Serie A this term but hauled off before the hour.
The Denmark international, who only joined from Tottenham in January, continues to be linked with a January exit from San Siro.
Eriksen had two key passes in the match and completed 25 of the 29 he attempted but cut a desolate figure when brought off by Conte.
“I evaluate everyone’s performance. I don’t like to speak about single players, the general performance was positive, for what we created and for our reaction against a difficult team to face,” Conte said when asked about Eriksen’s performance.
Inter’s fourth straight Serie A win was the perfect riposte to the midweek 0-0 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League that left Inter eliminated from European competition this season.
In truth, three points was a fair result for a team that had 23 shots, 11 on target and almost 58 per cent of possession.
After the Shakhtar game, some in the Italian media accused Conte of having no plan B, something he was asked about following the Cagliari win.
“I joked about plan B, which, for every coach, is represented by substitutions,” he said.
“Sometimes you have to make the team more offensive, sometimes more defensive. When you do it, you give more space to improvisation and anything can happen.
“As I always say, you must have all the players available to do it. Some of them may be injured, or not feeling well, or they may stay on the bench just to warm it.
“Most of times there are judgements from the outside and who stays inside can’t say it all.”
Barella came through the youth ranks at Cagliari and did not celebrate his goal against his former employers.
The midfielder explained: “I still have many limits, I can improve. I am really happy, and little bit sorry, because I scored against Cagliari, but I am mostly happy for the team.
“It’s always exciting to come here, I am a pro and I need to play and give my best for the team I’m playing for.”
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