Conte ‘disagreed with the referee’ on stoppages

Antonio Conte reveals what sparked his row with referee Fabio Maresca, but won’t call the 0-0 draw with Udinese a missed opportunity because Milan lost. ‘We need to think only of ourselves.’

The frustration of realising they could’ve been Winter Champions and threw it away, as Milan lost 3-0 to Atalanta, spilled out in the final minutes.

Conte was sent off for dissent, then it’s reported they continued to argue in the tunnel, with team manager Lele Oriali also dismissed.

“We had a disagreement over the amount of stoppages awarded,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

“The referee booked me and then chose to send me off. I thought four minutes weren’t enough, in the circumstances. Then the referee makes his decisions and we have to accept them, even if we do not agree with those decisions.”

Inter reach the midway stage of the season in second place, two points off leaders Milan, having failed to make the most of that slip-up.

“As I always say, we need to think only of ourselves. We mustn’t think about Milan and their defeat. We just have to focus on improving our performances and results.”

Achraf Hakimi had a particularly poor performance, misplacing several shots and crosses.

“We could’ve been more precise today and lacked quality in the final ball. When we put crosses in, we usually have four players push into the box. That’s usually the intent, then it’s about the accuracy of the cross. For instance, Nicolò Barella’s cross was what created the goal for Arturo Vidal against Juventus. You need both the cross and to get bodies into the box.”

As this is half-way through the season, Conte was asked how he judges Inter’s performance so far.

“I prefer others to do that, we just try to work and get the best out of ourselves. I think that amid the many, many difficulties we had this year, Inter are having their say and are protagonists of the campaign.

“Inter deserve that for their history. The second half of the season is still to play, but what we’ve done for the last year-and-a-half has been wonderful, aside from the difficulties that people often don’t realise are there.”

Inter and Milan now go head-to-head on Tuesday evening in the Coppa Italia quarter-final at San Siro.

“We know that Serie A represents something important for the club and on an economic level, so winning the Scudetto or qualifying for the Champions League is more important than the Coppa Italia. Having said that, we still respect the tournament and want to do well.

“Inevitably, we will evaluate the situation, see who has recovered and who needs more playing time. Nobody is underestimating this match and we’ll try to win, as we always do.

“We don’t put limits on ourselves, but we must find the right approach to beat Milan and go into the semi-finals.”