Antonio Conte on Sunday hailed Inter’s first Serie A triumph since 2009-2010 as “one of the most important successes” of his career.
Inter clinched their 19th scudetto after nearest rivals Atalanta BC drew 1-1 at US Sassuolo to leave the Nerazzurri 13 points clear with four games remaining.
Conte lifted the Italian title on three occasions as Juventus coach and won the English Premier League as Chelsea boss in 2017-2018.
“This is one of the most important successes of my career,” the 51-year-old told Italian TV station Rai. “Deciding to join Inter was not easy, just when the team was not equipped to win immediately. Furthermore, the opponent was Juventus, for whom I had worked for a long time, who had dominated for nine years. Today we can say that our sacrifices have paid off.”
The former Italy coach pinpointed Inter’s humiliating UEFA Champions League group stage exit in December last year as paving the way for their success. Since then, they have stepped up a gear in the league and lost just one game.
“The key moment of the season was when we came out of the Champions League, when we were inundated with a sea of criticism, all too excessive,” Conte said. “We were good at using those criticisms, transforming the negative into the positive, also because this group was not used to winning.”
Inter have four games remaining, including a trip to Juventus, which could decide whether Conte’s former club qualify for the Champions League.
“It will be an important match for them, we want to do our part until the end trying to get the most out of these last four days,” Conte said. “For me, going back to the Allianz Stadium is always a pleasure — before I entered it as a host, now I’m learning to do it as an opponent.”
Conte has one year left on his contract, but refused to be drawn on his future.
“At the end of the season we will make the appropriate evaluation,” he said. “We have done something extraordinary and I want to enjoy this moment.”
Atalanta had been the only team that could catch Conte’s side and needed to win to do so, but their chances diminished dramatically when a moment of madness from goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini saw him race out of his area and knock over Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga, earning himself a red card in the 23rd minute and leaving his side with 10 men for most of the match.
Robin Gosens scored for Atalanta nine minutes later, but Domenico Berardi leveled from the penalty spot early in the second half after Rafael Toloi pushed over Hamed Junior Traore.
Sassuolo also gave away a penalty and had a man sent off late when defender Marlon was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Luis Muriel, but former Atalanta goalkeeper Andrea Consigli saved Muriel’s spot-kick.
Elsewhere, two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo saw Juventus fight back to win 2-1 at Udinese.
Udinese led for most of the match following Nahuel Molina’s 10th-minute goal, but Ronaldo leveled from the penalty spot seven minutes from time after Rodrigo de Paul was penalized for handball, and the Juventus forward headed in the winner six minutes later.
Juventus moved level on points with Atalanta and AC Milan.
Fifth-placed SSC Napoli are two points further back after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Cagliari following a stoppage-time equalizer, while Lazio are only five points off the top four with a game in hand after beating Genoa 4-3.
Bologna forward Rodrigo Palacio became the oldest player to score a Serie A hat-trick — 39 years, 86 days — to help his side draw 3-3 against ACF Fiorentina, while Edin Dzeko had a penalty saved and two goals ruled out for offside as AS Roma lost 2-0 at UC Sampdoria.
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