Lukaku, Martinez fire five-star Inter into Europa League final

Romelu Lukaku, center, and Lautaro Martinez, right, were both on the scoresheet. (AFP)
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Updated 18 August 2020

Lukaku, Martinez fire five-star Inter into Europa League final

  • Martinez and Lukaku’s prolific partnership has been the source of much of Inter’s success and they took their tally to a combined 54 for the season

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: Inter Milan are destined for “great things” under Antonio Conte, according to Lautaro Martinez after the Argentine and Romelu Lukaku both scored twice to thrash Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in Dusseldorf and reach the Europa League final.
Danilo D’Ambrosio was also on target for the Italian giants, who will face Sevilla in Friday’s final in Cologne.
Inter have endured a lean decade since winning the Champions League in 2010, but closed the gap on Juventus at the top of Serie A to just one point in Conte’s first season in charge and are now one win away from a first trophy in nine years.
Martinez and Lukaku’s prolific partnership has been the source of much of Inter’s success and they took their tally to a combined 54 for the season.
“It was an incredible night, something we have been dreaming of,” said Martinez, who has been strongly linked with a move to be Luis Suarez’s successor at Barcelona.
“We proved that Inter are ready for great things, we are ready for the final.”
After a slow start, Martinez put Inter on course for their 10th European final as he powered home Nicolo Barella’s cross to open the scoring on 19 minutes.
Shakhtar are one of European football’s great survivors as the Ukrainian champions continue to thrive despite not playing a match in their home city of Donetsk for six years due to a war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.
Luis Castro’s men had scored 14 goals in five Europa League games since dropping into the competition form the Champions League, but their talented array of Brazilian forward barely laid a glove on a characteristically well-organized Conte defense.

“Don’t get fooled by the result,” said Conte. “We were good not allowing them to play the way they wanted. The lads played exactly how a European game should be played.”
Shakhtar had one golden chance to level when Mykola Matviyenko’s cross picked out Junior Moraes, but the Brazilian-born Ukrainian international’s header was too close to Samir Handanovic.
Two minutes later, Inter landed the killer blow when D’Ambrosio met Marcelo Brozovic’s corner with a powerful header.
“When Inter scored their second goal we simply collapsed,” said Castro. “After 2-0 we made so many terrible mistakes.”
Only a brilliant save from 36-year-old Andriy Pyatov had denied Martinez classy second with a lob long range early in the second half, but he gave the veteran ‘keeper no chance to set himself with brilliant quick hit for his 21st goal of the season.
Lukaku extended his run of scoring in now 10 straight Europa League game 12 minutes from time as this time Martinez played provider before his strike partner slotted low into the far corner.
Five minutes later the former Manchester United striker had his 33rd goal of the campaign by accelerating away from a slow Shakhtar backline before firing through Pyatov’s legs.
“I’m a forward and I’m here to score, it’s something inside me,” said Lukaku, who showed United the predatory instincts they were lacking in a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the other semifinal on Sunday.
Conte is famous for his high demands of his players, but Lukaku believes the hard work Inter did before Italian football’s return from a three-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is bearing fruit.
“We worked really hard in the camp,” added Lukaku. “It’s tough but you see the results of the hard work. We want to keep going.”


Coman strikes again as Bayern open title defense by routing Atletico

Updated 22 October 2020

Coman strikes again as Bayern open title defense by routing Atletico

  • The defeat was the joint heaviest Atletico has suffered under Diego Simeone

MUNICH, Germany: Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman picked up where he left off last season with two goals in a 4-0 home rout of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday as the holders got the defense of their Champions League campaign off to a winning start.
Coman, whose header settled last season’s Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain just 59 days ago in Lisbon, scored Bayern’s opening goal, created their second and claimed their fourth behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena.
“We played very well, I am very happy with my two goals,” Coman told Sky Sports.
“The winning goal in last season’s final is a good motivator, but it’s in the past now and we have fresh goals this season.”
Coman saved his best for last with a superb effort, turning the Atletico defense inside out before firing home on 72 minutes.
Goals by midfielders Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso, who produced an unstoppable long-range strike from outside the box, added to Atletico’s misery in Munich.
The defeat was the joint heaviest Atletico has suffered under Diego Simeone, rivalling the 4-0 drubbing dished out at Dortmund almost exactly two years ago.
“I am very pleased with the win, especially in defense, and we were rewarded for our hard work,” said head coach Hansi Flick after Bayern’s 12th straight win in Europe dating back to their 2018/19 last 16 defeat to Liverpool.
There were nervous moments in the build-up before UEFA confirmed the game could go ahead after Bayern winger Serge Gnabry tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
The rest of the Munich squad tested negative in Wednesday morning’s round of testing, but Goretzka later admitted Gnabry’s positive test was a “shock.”
Both sides had clear early chances as Luis Suarez just failed to connect with a low cross from Atletico left back Renan Lodi, while at the other end Bayern center-back Niklas Suele hit the post.
Suarez again fired wide just before Bayern took the lead.
Joshua Kimmich, who celebrated the birth of his second child the night before, won the ball, then turned and put a superb pass into the box which found Coman who fired past Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak on 29 minutes.
Coman then turned provider when the France winger darted into the area, spotted Goretzka free and the central midfielder beat Oblak to make it 2-0 at the break.
Atletico appeared to have pulled a goal back early in the second half when Joao Felix tapped home, but the VAR spotted Suarez offside in the build up.
Tolisso grabbed Bayern’s third just after the hour mark when he blasted home a thunderous strike after Kimmich’s effort had been charged down.
Coman capped a fine individual display when he twisted and turned his way past marker Felipe before deftly firing home on 77 minutes.
The 24-year-old was almost immediately substituted after helping establish a four-goal cushion with back-to-back away group games at Moscow and Salzburg in the coming weeks.