Romelu Lukaku appears as an unlikely hero as Inter Milan pull out a late victory over FC Porto.
Inter defeated Porto 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday, thanks to an 86th-minute goal from Romelu Lukaku.
A tough tactical duel between two well-drilled teams did not always result in a spectacular first leg. Porto came closest early on when Marko Grujic’s shot at the culmination of a wonderful team effort was expertly stopped by Andre Onana, then Wenderson Galeno strangely fluffed his header from the rebound. Minutes later, it was Diogo Costa’s chance to shine, somehow tipping over from Alessandro Bastoni’s close-range flick.
After tussling with Edin Dzeko in the opening frame, Onana’s teammates praised him for a sensational double save that kept Zaidu Sanusi and Mehdi Taremi from scoring just before halftime. His efforts appeared to spark a late Inter comeback, which only gained steam after Porto midfielder Otavio received a second caution for a careless trip on Hasan Calhanolgu. Four minutes from the end, Romelu Lukaku emerged as the unexpected hero, converting the rebound of his own header to give Inter a lead going into the second leg. The Portuguese team had looked to have hung on.
Inter beat Porto in First Leg
After coming in at the hour mark, the Belgian nearly immediately set up Martinez to give his team the lead. Even if he got help by a helpful deflection off the post, Lukaku had his shooting boots on whereas the Argentine may not have. The 29-year-old has already scored twice in as many games, and Inter – and maybe Chelsea – supporters will be hoping he can continue in Milan and solidify his spot in their starting lineup.
While Galeno made a surprising error and may have been fortunate not to give away a penalty in the first half, Otavio’s bad judgment drastically altered the game, and maybe the draw. His foul on Calhanoglu was a blatant booking, and as Inter was already winning away from home, it called for his dismissal. After then, Sergio Conceicao made an attempt to close things down, but his efforts were eventually unsuccessful due to Lukaku’s 86th-minute goal, which unquestionably had Otavio’s red card to do with it.
Inter now has 13 victories in 14 games at San Siro with just four goals surrendered, and with Otavio out for the second leg in three weeks, they will like their chances of winning.