Antonio Conte declared Inter Milan are “alive and kicking” in the Champions League after beating Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro.
Goals from Lautaro Martinez and Antonio Candreva gave Inter a 2-0 victory and drew them level on four points with Dortmund at the halfway point of the group stage.
The pair are three points adrift of Group F leaders Barcelona – who won 2-1 away to Slavia Prague on Wednesday – ahead of their return in Germany in two weeks’ time.
“Our situation wasn’t an easy one,” Conte said at his post-match press conference.
“We are not the favourites in this group, but we had to win to stay in the running and we did that.
“It’s still difficult to qualify, but we know that we’re alive and kicking. We want to be involved for as long as we can.
“I’m really happy for my players because these nights are the reward for the sacrifices made.
“Last year, the boys worked a lot with Luciano Spalletti to qualify for the Champions League and it’s only right that we try to continue this journey.”
Martinez’s 22nd-minute striker gave Inter the advantage and the Nerazzurri were comfortably the better of the two sides after the opening goal.
Dortmund were restricted to few chances, although England winger Jadon Sancho went close in first-half stoppage time.
Martinez saw his 82nd-minute penalty saved before veteran wing-back Candreva’s first Champions League goal sealed victory in the closing moments.
“It was a very difficult match, very tactical. Both teams tried to surprise the other,” Conte said.
“It’s tough against Borussia Dortmund, who are a very good team.
“We had prepared to press them in certain areas of the pitch and they changed their system.
“Borussia Dortmund changed their system to five at the back, which means they were afraid of us.
“We knew we had our backs to the wall after picking up just one point before this game.
“It’s now about making sure we get the result we need in Dortmund, it’ll be a difficult game.
“Barcelona and Dortmund are favourites in this group, but it’s up to us now.”
Dortmund had started the competition by holding Barcelona to a goalless draw and winning 2-0 at Slavia Prague.
Their only previous defeat this season was back in August when losing 3-1 to Bundesliga newcomers Union Berlin.
Dortmund manager Lucien Favre said: “We played well, in the first half we were very solid but we conceded that first goal.
“Except for that, it was OK. We didn’t have lots of chances, but we waited patiently and avoided counter-attacks.
“We went in at the break a goal down, then had a couple of chances before they made it 2-0.”
Favre added: “We should have done better with those chances. It was our plan to play a compact game and press them in the right moment.
“We cannot expect to have 10 chances against this team. It is a difficult group, but everything is still possible.”