London: Antonio Conte’s renowned inspirational qualities were in evidence as he fired up Tottenham Hotspur for a 2-1 comeback victory over Leeds United in the Premier League last night.
The former Juventus and Chelsea coach vented his anger from the technical area several times during the first half as his lacklustre team were out-battled by injury-hit Leeds.
Boos rang out at halftime with Leeds ahead through Daniel James’s close-range effort but Conte earned his money at the break, galvanising his players for a vastly-improved second half in which goals by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon earned Tottenham the points to move them up to seventh.
Conte celebrated each goal like a man possessed, spent the closing stages conducting the fans and could hardly contain himself as the final whistle sounded at the end of his first Premier League home game in charge of the club.
'Deserved to win'
“In the first half we struggled. Physically, tactically and in our intensity we struggled,” Conte said.
“I think in the second half we changed things and we wanted to play with the same intensity as Leeds. We won the game, we deserved to win. We played attractive football and the crowd was with us.”
The match statistics showed that Tottenham were out-run by Marcelo Bielsa’s tenacious Leeds in the first half.
But that was reversed in the second half as Spurs ran 3.7km more than their opponents, showing the intensity Conte has demanded throughout his managerial career.
“Our fans weren’t satisfied with the football we played in the first half and I agreed with them,” Conte, who resisted the urge to make halftime substitutions, told reporters.
“In the second half I corrected the situation. I look at the stats and Leeds are the best in the league for running. In the second half we beat them in intensity. The players showed personality and in the second half put pressure on Leeds in every part of the pitch. To win this way is good.”
Reguilon, who scored his first Premier League goal to snatch the points, epitomised Tottenham’s high-tempo second-half display with an energetic shift up and down the left flank.
“We put in an amazing effort. We are so happy and so, so tired,” the Spaniard said. The players, we know we needed to give more in the second half.”
Out of steam
Leeds were missing the likes of Raphinha, Rodrigo and Patrick Bamford and after deservedly leading they appeared to run out of steam in the second half.
They are in 17th place, just two points above the relegation zone and need to start picking up points.
“The difference in the second half was bigger for them than we managed to achieve in the first half,” Bielsa said.
“In the second half it was difficult for us not to be dominated. I think the result was fair.” England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who played in central defence in the first half, said it was not a time to panic.
“The way we play football we’ll eventually stack some more points on the board,” he said.