Inter’s Champions League journey is alive and kicking for another few weeks. The Nerazzurri fought long and hard against Porto but eventually did enough to take the narrowest of leads into leg two thanks to a late Romelu Lukaku winner.
Unfortunately, other lesser but unavoidable commitments meant I was forced to watch in unideal circumstances if at all, so this won’t quite be a full recap. A Champions League Round of 16 victory can’t just go ignored, however, so I’ll do my best. Both sides had their chances to take the lead prior to Lukaku’s strike, but the goalkeepers stood strong with a fair share of “how did that stay out” saves on both ends. Otavio’s 78th-minute red card from a second yellow, the culmination of a psychical and sometimes ill-tempered previous 77 minutes, finally tipped the balance firmly in Inter’s favor and the good guys put their foot on the gas in the remaining 10 minutes.
They were rewarded with the all-important opener from a man who needed a goal more than anyone: Romelu Lukaku. His exploits in the Champions League in an Inter kit are better left untouched, making this goal all the more important just days after his first goal in 2023. Perhaps a sign of things to come from Big Rom?
Simone Inzaghi also deserves a moment in the spotlight. He went with what’s been working with the starting lineup, playing Hakan Calhanoglu in Marcelo Brozovic’s role and partnering Edin Dzeko with Lautaro. Once it became clear that that wasn’t going to work the same this time, he brought Brozovic and Lukaku into action, and with great effect. Lukaku got the goal of course, but Brozovic began to look like the Broz we know in midfield at long last, tipping the game in Inter’s favor in the center of the park.
We’ll have to wait until March 14th for leg 2, but it was crucial that Inter goes into Portugal with an advantage on the scoreboard. Up next for Inzaghi’s men is a visit to Bologna Sunday.