Inter's Yuto Nagatomo made his first start in five matches on Wednesday night, contributing to the team's 3-1 win at Udinese as they drew within three points of Lazio for Serie A's third and final Champions League berth.
The 25-year-old had yet to start under new manager Andrea Stramaccioni, but on this night put in a full appearance and with his assertive passes began the sequence that lead to Wesley Sneijder's 10th-minute equaliser.
"It was a fun match," Nagatomo told reporters. "We were able to pass well in the first half, and had good sequences that led to good goals."
After extending his unbeaten streak with the Nerazzurri to five games, Stramaccioni was quick to praise his left-back.
"[Nagatomo] fulfilled an important role," the manager said after the match. "He never lost momentum and kept making good plays."
After losing his starting role following the departure of former manager Claudio Ranieri, the Japan international was under no illusion that one performance would be enough to restore his place.
"I feel like having to fight for my position [in the starting lineup] is a blessing," Nagatomo elaborated. "It helps me grow and I enjoy having to work hard."