Leonardo blames fatigue for Inter slump
Inter Milan coach Leonardo insisted fatigue played a part as the defending European champions limped out of the Champions League at the hands of Schalke.
Inter went down 2-1 in Germany thanks to goals from Raul and Benedikt Howedes to complete a humiliating 7-3 aggregate defeat. Thiago Motta grabbed a consolation for Inter.
It completes a miserable few weeks for Leonardo, after Inter slumped to a 3-0 defeat to city rivals AC Milan before their 5-2 home defeat by Schalke in the first leg. Despite needing to score a minimum of four goals to go through, Leonardo insisted he had believed his side could do it before the match.
"I really did believe, because in the first half we took the initiative and controlled the game, but didn't have the opportunities to score," he said.
"I dreamed of a comeback and we could've done it with a goal at the start and being able to hit at the right time. Admittedly, we certainly could've done better in some situations. In the goals we conceded, especially at San Siro, we always had our defence at the ready and weren't caught on the break.
"A result like that is not only down to one thing. There were other factors that penalised us. There is disappointment and that is difficult to control. I think the team used up a lot of energy in these last few months, both in Serie A and the Champions League. We arrived at the decisive moment with problems."
Leonardo did bring Goran Pandev on for Dejan Stankovic at half-time, but Esteban Cambiasso warmed the bench all game. Leonardo explained: "At that point we needed to really push and so I preferred to put on a striker rather than a midfielder.
"I wanted to keep Javier Zanetti and Thiago Motta, because they are more accustomed to playing in that role. Was I disappointed by Wesley Sneijder? No, especially as in this situation it was difficult for everyone. He was very closely marked and suffered in those circumstances, then fatigue did the rest."
Javier Zanetti admitted Inter were below par: "We knew it was going to be difficult, even if we didn't play the way we should've done," he told Rai Sport. "Unfortunately you pay for certain mistakes in the Champions League.
"It's true that Raul's goal came from our mistake, because at that moment we were in control of the game."
Despite trailing leaders AC Milan by five points in Serie A, Zanetti insists Inter can still retain their title: "Of course we believe in the Scudetto, as there are still six games to go."