Antonio Conte

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Inter fights back to beat Verona 2-1 and move top of Serie A

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MILAN (AP) Nicolo Barella scored his first league goal for Inter Milan to help the Nerazzurri come from behind to beat Hellas Verona 2-1 and move top of Serie A on Saturday.

Barella struck a stunning winner seven minutes from time after Matias Vecino had cancelled out Valerio Verre’s penalty for Verona.

Inter moved two points above eight-time defending champion Juventus, which hosts AC Milan on Sunday.

Verona remained ninth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

Inter was in need of a boost after letting slip a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.

But it went behind in the 19th minute when goalkeeper Samir Handanovic tripped Mattia Zaccagni and Verre drilled the resulting spot kick powerfully down the middle.

Along with Juventus, Verona had the best defensive record heading into the weekend and Inter struggled to break the visitors down.

But it laid siege to the Verona goal and it eventually paid off in the 63rd minute when Vecino headed in Valentino Lazaro’s cross.

And Inter snatched all three points when Barella cut inside from the left and curled an unstoppable strike into the top corner.

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Antonio Conte “fed up” with Inter Milan board’s “big mistakes”

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Antonio Conte laid much of the blame for Tuesday’s second-half collapse away to Borussia Dortmund at the feet of the Inter Milan board, claiming, “Big mistakes were made in planning this season,” and insisting he is “fed up of saying it.”

[ MORE: UCL roundup | Chelsea 4-4 Ajax | Liverpool 2-1 Genk ]

It was the second time this season that Inter have dominated the first half of a major clash in the UEFA Champion League, only to throw it all away in the second half and walk away empty-handed. In early October, Conte’s side held a 1-0 lead over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, but lost 2-1.

This time, a 2-0 lead over Dortmund turned into a 3-2 defeat, and that has Conte seeing red. In Conte’s mind, he doesn’t have a big enough, or deep enough, squad to compete on multiple fronts and against the quality of competition they face. He refused to tip-toe around the perceived issue — quotes from Football Italia:

“Big mistakes were made in planning this season. I am fed up of saying it.”

“It’s disappointing, but what can I say? They tell me that I should smile more on television. I should always say the same things, the growth process, taking it step by step, so just ask me some questions and I’ll try to answer.

“I don’t feel like even commenting on the second half, as there are too many alibis and I don’t want to create any more. I just hope this type of match clarifies things for those who need to understand. The lads are going at 100 kilometers per hour and I can only thank them for all they are doing during this period. They cannot give more than this.

“It irritates me and I hope that this defeat irritates my players too. We can do no more than to work and that’s what we’re doing. I am just fed up of saying the same things over and over, I hope a director comes here and says things instead.

“I don’t care about January or February. We should’ve planned this season out much, much better. We proved that we can trouble anyone if we are on form, but there are players who have played non-stop. I am fed up of saying it. You can take your conclusions from a second half like that.”

“We are Inter, so we must all look at ourselves and realize we are… actually, I was going to cause controversy again, but no, stop me talking now.

“I am really p—ed off, because we cannot do more than this. We’ve reached the limit.”

The most frustrating part for Conte, presumably, is that Juventus look genuinely beatable for the for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s as if they’re extending ever opportunity for someone — anyone — to knock them off their perch and take the title from them. Conte is beyond smart enough to recognize it, yet he doesn’t feel he’s been supported with the necessary means to do so, just as he’s wise enough to know Juve’s dip won’t last forever — maybe not even a second season — and this could very well be their best only chance.

Serie A roundup: Juventus, Inter Milan succumb unusual draws (video)

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Abnormal draws from Juventus and Inter Milan on the same matchday highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lecce 1-1 Juventus

With a couple of its stars resting – including Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus traveled to Lecce to take on the recently-promoted club. Shockingly, the league leaders were stunned and walked out with only a point.

Powered by the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, the Old Lady knocked, and knocked on the home side’s door. To be exact, Juventus took 15 shots in the first half, and even though the majority came inches from being on frame, only one resulted to be on target.

Close chances soon became a regular occurrence throughout the 90 minutes.

But early in the second half, Dybala finally broke the deadlock from the spot, following a hard foul on Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the 18-year-box. It was Juventus’ game to lose.

In a way, that’s exactly what happened when Lecce earned a penalty of their own only six minutes later. Marco Mancosu converted from 12 year out, putting the underdog leveled with the league’s most lucrative side.

Luckily for Maurizio Sarri and company, Parma’s two first-half goals were too much for Inter Milan to top, as the second-place side drew their first game of the season. Juventus, despite dropping two points on Saturday, remain one point ahead of Antonio Conte‘s Inter after nine games played.

With Ronaldo likely on the teamsheet, Juventus hosts Genoa midweek, while Inter Milan travel to Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 2-2 Lecce

Genoa 3-1 Brescia

Lukaku scores 2, celebrates with Conte as Inter Milan bounces back

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If this guy was still in red, Manchester United would have a lot more hope heading into today’s visit from Liverpool.

Romelu Lukaku scored his fourth and fifth Serie A goals of the season on Sunday as Inter Milan outlasted Sassuolo 4-3 at Stadio Citta del Tricolore.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch Sargent scores ]

Lautaro Martinez also scored twice in the win, as Inter rebounded from its loss to Juventus and reclaimed second place. Inter sits a point back of The Old Lady.

Lukaku caused a bit of buzz online when he raced over to manager Antonio Conte following his second goal for a fiery embrace (It’s Conte. Fiery is his thing).

From Football-Italia:

“Conte and I are both team players, so when I score a goal, I want to celebrate with everyone. I am focused only on working and giving my best in every match.”

Inter is home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in almost a must-win given its slow start to life in the Champions League.

Lukaku, who’s also scored six goals in his last four appearances for Belgium, already has a goal in a Milan Derby and a solid strike partner in Martinez.

He ranks near the top of Inter’s performance charts on WhoScored, chipping in on the defensive end as well.

Conte slams referee as Inter lose at Barcelona

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Antonio Conte was not happy with the officials as Inter Milan lost 2-1 at Barcelona on Wednesday.

The former Chelsea and Juventus manager saw his side go 1-0 up at the Nou Camp but two late goals from Luis Suarez saw Barca seal a comeback win.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Conte slammed referee Damir Skomina for not giving Inter a “clear penalty” when Stefano Sensi was brought down in the box by Arthur.

“I think there has been a clear penalty that we have not been given and then Barcelona have scored an equalizer,” Conte said. “We are talking about an international referee, who has experience, who took charge of the Champions League final. We deserved more. I am bitter because I have seen some situations that I did not like. There were things that I did not like from the beginning, but I don’t want to talk about that. On the bench we had some feelings I did not like.”

Conte then added that Inter deserved more respect, and revealed that the referee threatened to send him off after his protestations on the sidelines.

“What did the referee tell me? Nothing, he came to warn me and he said he would send me off at the next opportunity,” Conte said. “Referees have on their shirt the word ‘respect’ and it is the only thing I have asked. They must respect those who come here to try to do better than the other team. Respect must be mutual.”

The defeat was Inter’s first of the season, as they’d won five-straight in Serie A and for large spells of the clash at Barcelona they looked assured and steady after Lautaro Martinez gave them the lead.

Conte’s criticism of Skomina is particularly surprising as he is recognized as one of the best referees in the game and, as Conte said, he refereed the UEFA Champions League final last season.

Referees have bad days. So too do managers. Conte’s reaction was ‘on brand’ as his passionate style on the sidelines has never changed.

Inter have one point from their opening two UCL matches and are now playing catch up to Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona who both have four points on the board after two games.

The Italian giants now face Dortmund home and away and know they probably have to get at least four points to keep their hopes of reaching the last 16 alive.