Conte defends late changes after Inter concede following Lautaro, Hakimi and Vidal substitutions

Antonio Conte - Inter
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The Nerazzurri boss made three changes before the home side popped up with a late equaliser

Antonio Conte has defended his decision to withdraw Lautaro Martinez, Arturo Vidal and Achraf Hakimi in the late stages of Inter's 2-2 draw with Roma on Sunday.

Inter were 2-1 up before star striker Martinez was taken off 77 minutes into the match and replaced by Ivan Perisic. Five minutes later, a double substitution saw Roberto Gagliardini take Vidal's place and Aleksandar Kolarov come on for Hakimi.

Roma went on to score the equaliser in the 86th minute, with Gianluca Mancini heading home to seal a point for the home side.

Asked if he could have avoided making the late changes, Conte said: "Vidal had picked up a knock and asked to be brought off. Lautaro was spent after 75 minutes of effort - off the ball too.

"Hakimi gave a lot too and these players have played a lot of football in the last seven days. We have a squad that’s big enough to make good changes so it’s normal to look to the bench."

He added: “[Vidal] performed really well. He had a slow start but then increased the intensity of his game. It was a positive display, as was the case for all the others. He came off due to a physical problem."

Despite the draw, Conte was happy with his side's performance, even though he felt they could have had the win wrapped up before the late equaliser. 

The result leaves them three points behind leaders AC Milan ahead of the Nerazzurri's match against champions Juventus next week.

"I think that we played well, in the first half too. Let’s not forget that Roma are fighting for the same thing we are and are just three points behind us," he said.

"Going away to the third-place team in the league and playing like this means we’re an organised and strong team. We had the chance to kill off the game but couldn’t manage it, and let Roma back into it late on - because we were out of energy. It’s a shame because, with two minutes two go, we were beating a strong side.

"I think that, at the end of the game, there was a bit of anxiety to get a result. On a mental level, this leads you to hold off somewhat.

"From the bench, we told the players to continue to press, because sitting deep isn’t a good thing. However, psychologically, it’s normal for the losing team to push forward and the team in front to try to hold on to the result. We’ll certainly continue to work to improve in this regard.

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"We have our own identity and I’m pleased that opposition coaches have referred to this, there’s work that goes into achieving this. We’re an organised side, even if this isn’t often recognised.

"We often concede goals because we press high and leave space for the opposition to hit us on the counter, we’ve conceded too many in this way. Pressing high is a double-edged sword: it allows you to win the ball high up the pitch, but you’re left vulnerable if you make a mistake. Furthermore, you need to have the strength to play this way for the whole game.

"We’ve played three matches in seven days with more or less the same starting eleven, and it’s normal for a bit of energy to be missing at the end. Sitting back is an inevitable consequence."