Inter 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Lukaku sets Europa League record as Nerazzurri seal semi-final spot

By Sports Desk August 10, 2020

Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella were on target as Inter saw off Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Inter led 2-0 inside 21 minutes at Merkur Spielarena in Dusseldorf – Barella opening the scoring before Lukaku squeezed in a record-setting goal.

Leverkusen star Kai Havertz pulled one back three minutes later, with VAR then denying Lukaku – the first player to score in nine successive UEFA Cup or Europa League games – the chance to double his tally from the spot, a fate he would suffer again in second-half stoppage time.

Alexis Sanchez went close to marking his first appearance since signing permanently for Inter with a goal midway through the first half, but the Nerazzurri's blistering start ultimately proved enough to book their semi-final place.

In a frantic opening, it was Inter who went ahead after 15 minutes – Barella sending a brilliant outside-of-the-boot finish into the bottom-left corner.

Barella latched onto a rebound from a blocked Lukaku shot for Inter's opener, but the former Manchester United striker had his goal six minutes later when he held off Edmond Tapsoba and turned in a low finish.

Lukaku squandered a golden chance to extend Inter's lead moments later, and he was swiftly made to pay as Havertz drilled in from close range.

Momentum appeared to have swung back in Inter's favour within two minutes – Daley Sinkgraven adjudged to have handled in the area – but referee Carlos del Cerro Grande changed his decision after consulting VAR.

Roberto Gagliardini might have restored Inter's two-goal cushion following the restart, had Lukaku not got in the way of his effort.

Lukas Hradecky made fine saves to deny Sanchez – who played on through an apparent hamstring injury suffered late on – and Victor Moses as Inter pressed for a third, though it looked as if they would have the final say when Christian Eriksen was awarded a penalty.

However, VAR worked against Inter for a second time, the referee overturning his initial decision due to an accidental handball from Barella but, fortunately for Inter, they were not made to rue the call. 

What does it mean? Inter looking strong

Leverkusen were arguably the strongest side Inter would have to face in this side of the draw, and the Nerazzurri have passed the test. While Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel will be no pushovers, Conte's side should be confident of reaching their first European final since 2010.

Record-setting Lukaku rolls on

With his brilliantly taken goal, Lukaku cemented himself in the Europa League record books, adding another accolade to what has been a fantastic first season with Inter.

Tah and Tapsoba found lacking

With Sven Bender suffering a late injury, Peter Bosz was left without one of his most experienced players, and the former Borussia Dortmund man was certainly missed as Inter got at Leverkusen's youthful centre-back pairing of Jonathan Tah and Tapsoba time and time again.

What's next?

Shakhtar or Basel, who play on Tuesday, will face Inter on August 17. Leverkusen, meanwhile, will now prepare for the new Bundesliga season, which starts in September.

Related items

  • Pogba one of the world's best – Tuchel Pogba one of the world's best – Tuchel

    Thomas Tuchel labelled Paul Pogba one of the best midfielders in the world ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's clash against Manchester United.

    PSG host United in Paris on Tuesday to begin their Champions League campaign in Group H.

    Ahead of the clash, Tuchel lauded Pogba, who has been linked with a move to the Ligue 1 champions previously.

    "He is one of the best midfielders of the world. That's the key to stopping him," the PSG coach told a news conference.

    "Bruno Fernandes who makes a lot of deep passes. One of the best teams in Europe in offensive transition. It's necessary to stop counter-attacks.

    "We want to have the ball, we want to play with a lot of possession, we want to impose our style. We have to play with a good structure to play good pressing."

    Pogba's former United team-mate, Ander Herrera, also praised the France international.

    Herrera, who left the Premier League club for PSG last year, believes Pogba will be a Ballon d'Or contender if United start winning multiple trophies.

    "I think he has it all. I've already said that there is no midfielder like him. He can do everything, one-on-one, box-to-box, he can do everything. He has all the qualities," he said.

    "He now plays a little deeper than when I was there because Fernandes plays like a number 10. I think he has all the qualities to become one of the best players in the world.

    "It's true that when you see the list of players who are candidates for the Ballon d'Or, you have to play in the team that wins everything. I think that if Man United wins titles, he will be in the list for the Ballon d'Or and the end-of-season trophies.

    "But, I am a PSG player now, I wish the best for Paul and Man United because they are in my heart but [on Tuesday] I will fight in a different team, we will fight for our team, our place."

  • Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January

    Jamie Carragher says Liverpool need to do whatever it takes to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano in January after losing Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury. 

    Netherlands international Van Dijk was forced off early in the Reds' 2-2 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday after a wild challenge from Jordan Pickford.

    Scans have since revealed Van Dijk suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will ensure he misses the majority – if not the entirety – of the remainder of the season.

    Liverpool have previously been linked with 21-year-old France international Upamecano and Carragher – the Reds' second-highest appearance maker – says Jurgen Klopp needs to bring him in as a matter of urgency when the January transfer window opens. 

    "Liverpool's next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer," Carragher told Sky Sports. 

    "Dejan Lovren went and they didn't replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured. There are question marks now about Joe Gomez.

    "So, there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 1, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. 

    "There is a young man everyone was talking about at Leipzig, Dayot Upamecano. I think he is only 6'1" or 6'2", so he is maybe not that aerial but if he is the one they wanted then bring it forward. Pay extra money and do it on January 1.

    "That means getting through 11 league games without Virgil van Dijk."

  • Solskjaer surprises Fernandes with Man Utd captaincy after hailing his 'spark' Solskjaer surprises Fernandes with Man Utd captaincy after hailing his 'spark'

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprised Bruno Fernandes at a joint media conference by announcing he would captain Manchester United against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday after hailing the Portuguese's recent impact.

    Fernandes has been a revelation since his arrival from Sporting CP in the January transfer window, scoring 12 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions during the second half of the 2020-21 season.

    He also ended the campaign as the club's joint highest goal creator in the Premier League, sitting alongside Marcus Rashford with seven assists.

    The 26-year-old has picked up where he left off this term, with his fine goal in United's 4-1 Premier League win over Newcastle United on Saturday taking his tally to three goals in five appearances. 

    With Harry Maguire absent for United's Champions League clash in Paris, Solskjaer had no hesitation in giving the captain's armband to Fernandes after his impressive start to life as a United player.

    "Bruno has come in and had great impact with all the stats showing that," he said.

    "His performances have been receiving real great praise as well. He has not changed the team, but he has sparked the team."

    A visibly surprised Fernandes admitted he had no prior knowledge of Solskjaer's decision, describing it is a major milestone in his career. 

    "I was not expecting this, I have found out the same time as you," Fernandes said. "For me it's an honour. I will be captain for my team-mates and to be captain of Manchester United is an important achievement for me.

    "But I think everyone is the captain. Everyone needs to help and be a leader in their own way; leadership is different in every player. Tomorrow will not be about me but the team.

    "Leading is every day in the training ground, every game and everyone is doing their job to lead the team in the way they think is best."

    Tuesday's game will be the first time the sides have met since United's stunning last-16 win over the French giants in March 2019, when Rashford's stoppage-time penalty sealed a 3-1 win in Paris after a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in the first leg.

    Solskjaer remembers the game fondly but insists it will have no bearing on how the match pans out against Thomas Tuchel's men this time around. 

    "Of course, that's history for us," Solskjaer said. "It's in the past. Great history, great game, but it has no impact whatsoever on this game.

    "We're a different team, they're a different team. It's a different stage of the competition.

    "Of course, also without fans it's going to be a different game. Because in the last game, when we got the first goal early on that impacted the ground, it's a completely new situation."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.