(Reuters) – Not even Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of struggling Crotone and taking possession of the Serie A top spot could cheer up Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte as he railed against Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal after the home victory.
A hat-trick by Lautaro Martinez helped Inter to get their eighth league win in a row but Conte was still smarting afterwards about Vidal conceding a first-half penalty that allowed bottom side Crotone to level at 2-2.
“Arturo has significant room for improvement,” Conte said. “Keep your head down and keep working, nobody is guaranteed a place here and he has to prove he deserves to play. He must do much better than what he is doing.
“Too many ups and downs, and we can’t afford them. He knows it, he knows he has to go back to training.”
Inter’s disappointing early exit from the Champions League last month piled the pressure on Conte, who was visibly angry after the 0-0 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk which sealed their fate.
Conte clashed with former England coach, now television pundit, Fabio Capello after that stalemate, but even with Inter becoming the first Serie A side to score six goals in the first game of a calendar year since 1959 on Sunday, Conte was still not happy.
While Inter have won every league match since their Champions League exit, their performances have not been all that convincing. Strike duo Romelu Lukaku and Martinez had combined for just two goals in all competitions, until Sunday.
Against Crotone, however, Lukaku showed his prowess as an assist-maker, brilliantly threading the ball through for Martinez’s equaliser in the 20th minute.
Lukaku also helped to set up the goal that put Inter 2-1 in front, before again playing a part in creating the chance for Martinez to score his first-ever Inter hat-trick, which he duly converted.
Lukaku also got on the scoresheet himself, scoring his 50th Serie A goal in his 70th league appearance on an impressive afternoon for Inter’s deadly duo.
“When you win consistently, as we are doing, self-esteem and confidence in your own means increases,” Conte said. “The group knows the path we must follow, we must cover our ears, be concentrated and move forward.”
The victory took Inter, who are dreaming of a first league title in 11 years, to the top of the table, with closest rivals AC Milan playing later on Sunday.
Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by Clare Fallon