Antonio Conte believes tonight’s encounter with Udinese represented a “good advert for football” after witnessing an end-to-end affair played out over an absorbing 90 minutes in Turin.
It was the Bianconeri, fresh from their midweek Champions League exertions, who eventually claimed the points through a late Fernando Llorente salvo after being pushed all the way by their determined visitors.
Praising both the spectacle and his team’s efforts, Conte began: “It was a good game and a decent advert for football, both sides went out for the win and extraordinary saves were made by Brkic and Buffon. My lads were remarkable, we approached the encounter following our Champions League match in midweek, but more than held up from a physical point of view.”
With the outcome of tonight’s encounter hanging in the balance as the clock ticked down towards the final 15 minutes, Conte elected to add more bite to his strikeforce by introducing Fabio Quagliarella and making adjustments in the middle of the park.
“I waited until the end to go gung-ho, also because there’s only one point’s difference between a draw and a defeat. Pogba and Vidal were shut out in the middle and I moved Marchisio out wide.”
The 44-year-old tactician’s boldness paid off as the Bianconeri’s increased threat in the final third eventually broke down a seemingly impenetrable Udinese rearguard to secure a win that takes them three points above nearest challengers Roma.
But when asked to assess the importance of this evening’s victory, Conte remained philosophical.
“Every game is important. If we had failed to beat Livorno we wouldn’t have gone top of the league. Now we’re three points in front, but two weeks ago Roma were five ahead of us and Napoli.
“We’ve established and are continuing to build something important in terms of play and mentality. We always go out to win and I’m lucky enough to coach a group of players who want to make their mark. It will be difficult, but we’ve got the desire to give it a go.”
The manager’s final comment was reserved for midfield playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who departed the action inside the opening 15 minutes after taking a blow to his knee.
“We hope it’s not twisted and is just a knock. I want to be optimistic, he’s a champion and will look to return immediately.”