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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Champions League: Romelu Lukaku finds form again

Striker happy to help Inter after enduring ‘really difficult months’

AP/PTI Milan Published 24.02.23, 04:03 AM
Romelu Lukaku.

Romelu Lukaku. File picture

Romelu Lukaku is back.

After ending his goalscoring drought last weekend, Lukaku scored late to fire Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over 10-man Porto on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 matchup.

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They were Lukaku’s first goals since October and took his tally to just four since returning from Chelsea in the offseason as the Belgium forward has struggled with injury and poor form.

“We’re really happy with the win, it was too important to get a result,” said Lukaku, who came on as a substitute.

“We wanted to score a second goal too, but we still managed to win the match and I’m happy. I went through really difficult months with the injury but I’m happy to be available again and happy to have helped get the win. I’m not individualistic, I only think about Inter, about doing the best for Inter.”

Porto midfielder Otavio was sent off following a second yellow card 12 minutes from time. He had received his first booking for a tussle with Inter’s Federico Dimarco at the end of the first half.

The second leg is on March 14 in Porto.

“I think it (the second yellow) was right, but the last 10 minutes were difficult for us,” Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said. “But there were also Inter players that deserved to be booked. Lautaro (Martinez) should have got a yellow card and he wouldn’t have played the return leg if he had … I don’t know if that was right, you decide.”

Inter have lost only once since the beginning of November, while Porto came into the match on a 22-game unbeaten run and had only let in two goals in their past 11 matches.

Martinez was on a red-hot scoring streak but in the 13th minute he headed over the bar from point-blank range.

Inter went closer five minutes later but Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa reacted swiftly to punch Hakan Calhanoglu’s cross-shot out from under the bar.

Por to withstood the Inter pressure well and had a chance of their own in the 27th minute but Marko Grujic fired over the bar.

The visitors then had two opportunities in quick succession as Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana parried Grujic’s effort and Galeno nodded the rebound wide.

The best chance — and the best save — of the half came in stoppage time as a freekick was whipped in from the right and Alessandro Bastoni seemed certain to score by the near post but Diogo Costapushed his header away with his forearm.

It was Onana’s turn for heroics at the start of the second half with a double save to deny first Mehdi Taremi and then Zaidu.

Lukaku replaced Edin Dzeko in the 58th and went close to breaking the deadlock but his cross-shot flashed past Martinez’s outstretched leg and the far post.

However, Lukaku then scored with four minutes remaining.

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