Antonio Conte praised Tottenham’s two-goal hero Richarlison for hitting the right notes on his Champions League debut in a 2-0 win over Marseille.
The £60m summer signing broke the deadlock in the 76th minute when he headed Ivan Perisic’s cross home from the left to open his account for the club.
Richarlison snatched second place from Richarlison and Spurs five minutes later with an even better header and gave the hosts all three points from their opening game in Group D, which had been difficult before Marseille in the 47th minute after Chancel Mbemba’s red was reduced to 10 men.
“First of all, I’m happy for Richy because he deserves to have a night like this,” said Conte.
“I remember very well when we signed him he said I couldn’t wait to play and hear the Champions League music. Not many words, but important words for me.
“Today, this morning, I remember him and I said, ‘Richy, I remember what you’re saying, tonight you have this opportunity and chance. Enjoy this moment and do your best.” He did his best and helped us get three points in a difficult game because Marseille are a really good team.
“We signed Richy because we were trying to sign a player who can play in all three positions. Because of that, we had no qualms about signing him. We did it quickly because our idea and vision was very clear precisely for this reason.
“Richy is more of a striker than Deki (Dejan Kulusevski), but at the same time he can play in Son’s position, in Harry Kane’s position and in Deki’s position. For us it’s very important because when you shoot you certainly don’t lose quality.”
After a lackluster first half from Spurs, the hosts received a timely boost just after the break when Mbemba was the last man to receive his marching orders for a foul on Son Heung-min.
He failed to bring Tottenham to life significantly and Kulusevski came on on the hour mark, with Conte keeping four attackers on the pitch, but just before Richarlison’s opener he made the decision to use defenders Japhet Tanganga and Ben Davies.
The Italian insisted he had made the decision to refresh Spurs’ defence, but acknowledged he could be put on rotation for Saturday’s clash at Premier League champions Manchester City or next week’s Group D trip to Sporting Lisbon could be forced.
Conte added: “I also tried to make difficulties with the substitutions because we forced a lot to be really, really offensive to have Deki and the three strikers one on one with Perisic.
“Then I replaced the two centre-backs with fresh centre-backs to push on one side with Japhet and Ben Davies on the other. In the end we got three points and that’s very important for us. It’s really important to start this competition in the best possible way.
“I’m a bit worried because we’re going to play City in just two (sic) days and it’s not easy because I think some players need to rest and recover.
“Now we have to manage the big decisions for the game against City very well. I trust my players and of course we have to rotate because it would be impossible to play with the same players on Saturday and then on Tuesday. It will be impossible. Certainly not easy against City.”
Conte, who previously managed Chelsea in England, was also asked about his former club’s decision to sack Thomas Tuchel on Wednesday.
But he insisted: “Honestly I don’t want to be disrespectful and I think if another club makes a decision, OK, it’s right not to speak out because you don’t know what happened.”
Marseille coach Igor Tudor felt Mbemba’s red card was transforming the competition.
He said: “We were doing very well. It’s not easy to come here and dominate like we did. After that, of course, we’re disappointed because we lose and then the red card decides the game.
“Two shots on target with one player down and two crosses into the penalty area. The stats say they had two shots on target, that’s my analysis.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/richarlison-antonio-conte-champions-league-city-manchester-city-b2162281.html Richarlison deserved such an evening – Tottenham boss Antonio Conte