The disappointment was visible in Antonio Conte’s face after the 3-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Inter Milan had led Dortmund 2-0 after 45 minutes and looked good for the win. “I don’t know,” said Conte when asked about the second half. “It is difficult to answer this question. We have to try to analyze the game to understand the game.”
Conte seemingly struggled to come up with an analysis of what happened. Questions on his lineup and possible fatigue within his small squad were down talked.
“Just look at the team,” Conte said. “If you say that, perhaps that is part of it,” Conte on the team being tired. “I can’t blame the boys. We have to work hard and to overcome this moment. I am the coach; I carry the responsibility.”
No explanation of what happened in the second half when Inter gave away a 2-0 lead—Conte refused to go into details of Inter’s undoing. “You journalists write the stories,” Conte said. “Try to answer your own questions. Make the analysis.”
Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre was more forthcoming. The Dortmund head coach was surprisingly agitated throughout the game. A complete opposite of the lifeless Favre stereotypes that have made him a target of the media and fans over the last few weeks.
“I thought our first half was very good, too,” Favre said. “I didn’t change anything at halftime.”
In retrospect, Favre is correct. Dortmund were harmless, allowing Inter to record an easy 2-0 victory, the Black and Yellows on matchday 3. On Tuesday, Dortmund were more aggressive, Favre’s 4-2-2-2 lineup causing countless problems for Inter’s backline.
The Italians, however, had Samir Hadanović in goal. Mario Götze (17′), Julian Brandt (44′), Thorgan Hazard (45′) forced Samir Handanović into making some beautiful stops.
Inter going the other way were more efficient. Lautaro Martínez escaped Mats Hummels in the sixth minute to make it 1-0. Matías Vecino then made it 2-0 after Marcelo Brožović and Antonio Candreva were given to much room to combine in midfield, exposing Dortmund backline.
Three weeks ago, going into halftime 2-0 down, Dortmund would have been dead in the water. Favre must have already heard the press writing about José Mourinho possibly coming in to replace him. But it almost appears the Swiss head coach enjoys the pressure. “I won’t comment much on that, it is exaggerated either way,” Favre said to DAZN.
The first half, however, highlighted that Favre’s new 4-2-2-2 setup was working. The concentration in the center and the overlapping play by Mario Götze and Julian Brandt, allowing the wingers to collapse to the center. A significant improvement to the first game between the two sides were Dortmund were kept to the wings.
It highlights that Favre had done his job in exposing Conte’s weaknesses. Inter are very good when it comes to forcing teams to the wing, away from the center. But they had no answer when the attacking pivots were drawing the central defenders from the middle.
With the back-three having to cover interchanging attacking midfielders, Achraf Hakimi had the room to penetrate from the deep with his speed. The Moroccan scored twice in the second half to hand Dortmund a win.
For Conte, it means back to the drawing board. Tactically but also on the transfer market as his side needs to be strengthened to deal with a tight schedule. “We are Inter Milan, one of the best teams in the world,” Conte said. “We have to do better.”