Tue, Mar 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Conte fires back at ‘anti-football’ criticism

Reuters, MANCHESTER, England

Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, center, scores past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, left, in their Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on Sunday defended his negative approach to his side’s 1-0 English Premier League defeat by Manchester City, saying to play open soccer against Pep Guardiola’s side was to risk heavy defeat.

The former Juventus and Italy manager said Arsenal’s two 3-0 defeats by City last week, in the EFL Cup final and a Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium in London, showed what can happen if teams play too openly against City.

“I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0,” Conte told reporters. “If I remember well, two days ago Arsenal played twice against them and then you criticize a lot Wenger because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes.”

Chelsea played Eden Hazard as a lone striker and operated a deep midfield in front of their defense, showing little ambition, or any attempt to press or counterattack.

Sky TV pundit Jamie Redknapp, the former Liverpool and England midfielder, was scathing in his assessment of Conte’s tactics.

“Today, that was such a hard watch, that was anti-football. That was a crime against football what they did today. I really felt that so strongly,” Redknapp said.

Conte fired back at Redknapp’s comments.

“The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics, because I think you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way,” Conte said.

The Italian suggested that any other approach could have led to a damaging loss.

“We tried to have patience. When you are 1-0 down you can always have the possibility to score. When you concede the space to Manchester City there is the risk for the game to finish 3 or 4-0,” he said. “When you play against a team that has shown to be stronger than you for a lot of the season — because 25 points is a big difference — you have to think with your brain and your head, because otherwise you finish with a bad loss and that’s not good for the players.”

Chelsea had frustrated City in the first half, but the game was won by a Bernardo Silva strike in the first minute after the break.

“It’s not simple to play against Man City. They have great intensity in every moment of the game,” Conte said. “We tried to do this and defend well, but we conceded a goal after 30 seconds of the second half and it’s very difficult to come back from that, but don’t forget we were missing N’Golo Kante, who is a crucial player for our balance.”

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