Chelsea Sign Lukaku From Inter Milan

Lukaku was with Chelsea seven years ago. Photo: Chelsea FC.

 

Chelsea have re-signed Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.

The London club confirmed the return of the 28-year-old strike for a reported club record fee of £97 million ($135 million) in a statement on Thursday.

“One of the most prolific strikers in European football, Lukaku has returned to the club he supported as a young boy and where he has unfinished business, having been on our books between 2011 and 2014,” the club said.

“The Belgian has signed a five-year contract and will add attacking firepower to Thomas Tuchel’s squad of European champions.”

Lukaku scored 64 goals in two seasons in Italy to quickly become a hero at the San Siro.

But the Belgian also has a proven record in the Premier League, scoring 113 goals during spells with Manchester United, Everton and West Brom.

The only blot on Lukaku’s career so far was his first spell at Chelsea as he failed to score in 15 appearances.

Signed as an 18-year-old as the apparent heir to Didier Drogba, Lukaku quickly grew frustrated at his lack of opportunities in the first team.

Drogba was the hero as Lukaku’s first season as a Chelsea player ended with them winning the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

But he later stated he felt he played “no part” in that success due to his limited game time.

“I’m happy and blessed to be back at this wonderful club,” said Lukaku, who has signed a five-year contract. “It’s been a long journey for me: I came here as a kid who had a lot to learn, now I’m coming back with a lot of experience and more mature.

“The way the club is going fits my ambitions perfectly at 28 and just coming off winning Serie A. I think this opportunity comes at the right time and hopefully we can have a lot of success together.”

Prolific loan spells with West Brom and then Everton proved Lukaku’s ability to score goals in the Premier League before he made a permanent move to the Toffees in 2014.

After scoring 87 goals in three seasons with Everton, Chelsea came calling again but Lukaku instead joined Manchester United in an inital £75 million move.


READ ALSO: Chelsea Beat Villarreal To Win UEFA Super Cup

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READ ALSO: Ramos Invites Messi, Family To Come Stay With Him At Paris Home


‘Ups and downs’ 

 

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Seven goals in his first seven Premier League games briefly gave United hope of challenging Manchester City for the title in 2017/18, but the wheels quickly came off Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford.

Lukaku scored twice in United’s famous comeback to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League in the early months of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign in charge, but he also fell out of favour under the Norwegian with questions over his fitness.

“Since I left Chelsea, it’s been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs, but these experiences made me strong and the challenge is to try to help the team win some more trophies,” added Lukaku. “I can’t wait to get started and to help the club achieve more success.”

A move to Inter offered a fresh start under Antonio Conte, who had been a long-time admirer of Belgium’s all-time leading scorer.

Together they ended Juventus’ grip on Italian football, romping to Serie A last season by 12 points.

However, the financial problems of Inter’s owners the Suning Group, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have seen their rise quickly unravel.

Conte left the club in May, claiming the cost cutting required would have prevented him building the team he wanted to challenge domestically and in Europe.

After lifting the Champions League last season, Chelsea are hoping Lukaku is the final piece required to make Thomas Tuchel’s side Premier League title challengers.

“Lukaku is quite simply one of the world’s best strikers and goalscorers,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing him back to the club he loves, and are excited to be adding his talent to our Champions League-winning squad.

“We are of course looking to build on last season’s success, and Lukaku will play a big role in achieving our targets.”

 

Eriksen Visits Inter Training Ground Nearly Two Months After Euro Collapse

Inter Milan’s Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen looks on during the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) round of 8 football match Inter Milan vs Fiorentina on January 29, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Christian Eriksen on Wednesday met his Inter Milan teammates for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, in a visit to the Italian champions’ training ground.

In a statement, Inter said that Eriksen, 29, paid a visit to the training centre at Appiano Gentile outside Milan on Wednesday morning.

“The Danish midfielder met the club directors, the coach, teammates and all of the staff present. Eriksen is doing well and is in excellent physical and mental shape,” Inter said.

“He will now follow the recovery programme put forward by Danish doctors in Copenhagen, who will also co-ordinate the clinical follow-up. The Inter medical staff will naturally be kept informed and up to date throughout the process.”

Eriksen collapsed towards the end of the first half of Denmark’s opening match at the European Championship against Finland, his life saved by the quick thinking of his teammates and the Danish medical staff.

His future at Inter is in the balance due to his pacemaker, as footballers with one fitted cannot play in Italy, unlike in some other countries.

The tests he is undergoing will eventually determine whether or not he can have it removed, allowing him to stay at Inter.

He is in any case not expected to be back in action for another six months, whether he stays in Italy or finds a new club elsewhere.

He arrived in Milan on Tuesday and reportedly had a conversation with Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta before travelling to the training ground on Wednesday to see his teammates and new coach Simone Inzaghi.

-AFP

Inter Milan Pull Out Of US Trip After Arsenal Over COVID-19 Concerns

Inter Milan’s Italian defender Alessandro Bastoni (C) and teammates celebrate after Inter opened the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Cagliari on April 11, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
Alberto PIZZOLI / AFPPIZZOLI / AFP

 

 

Italian champions Inter Milan announced Wednesday that they will not be travelling to the United States for the Florida Cup after Premier League side Arsenal earlier withdrew after coronavirus cases.

The Serie A club said in a statement the decision was “due to the current risks involved in international travel as a result of the spread of the pandemic, risks that have already caused Arsenal F.C. to withdraw”.

Earlier Arsenal also cancelled their pre-season trip after a “small number” of their touring party tested positive for coronavirus.

The two teams were scheduled to play each other this weekend in the opening round of the Florida Cup, which also includes Everton and Colombia’s Millonarios.

Arsenal did not specify how many members of their touring group had tested positive, or if any players were among those with a Covid-19 diagnosis.

“Following a small number of positive Covid tests among the planned party to travel to America tomorrow, we have sadly been forced to withdraw from the Florida Cup,” the statement read.

“This difficult decision is based on ensuring the health and wellbeing of our players and staff.”

The Premier League season starts on August 13, with Arsenal travelling to promoted Brentford.

Serie A kicks off on the weekend of August 21 with Inter opening their title defence at home against Genoa.

Meanwhile, Italian side Spezia have confirmed four more positive cases, a player and three staff members, bringing the Covid outbreak at the Serie A club to 14 in the last week.

PSG Sign Inter Wing-Back Hakimi In $71 Million Deal

 In this file photo taken on December 20, 2020 Inter Milan's Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi celebrates after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A Inter Milan vs La Spezia at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. Marco BERTORELLO / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 20, 2020 Inter Milan’s Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi celebrates after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A Inter Milan vs La Spezia at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain announced on Tuesday they had signed Morocco wing-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan on a five-year deal.

According to reports the Parisians have paid around 60 millions euros ($71 million) for the 22-year-old who won Serie A with Inter last season.

Hakimi started his career with Real Madrid before joining Borussia Dortmund for a season and then heading to the San Siro.

“I feel a great sense of pride today,” Hakimi said in a PSG statement.

“After Spain, Germany and Italy, Paris Saint-Germain offers me the chance to discover a new championship with one of the most prestigious clubs in the world,” he added.

The nine-time French champions are also reportedly interested in Hakimi’s former Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos as well as AC Milan’s Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma but have already signed Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

Despite 2011’s multi-million takeover by Qatar Sports Investment and signing Brazil’s Neymar for a world record fee they have failed to win the Champions League.

“This calibre of signing shows the level of our ambitions – we continue to build something very special,” PSG’s chief executive officer Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.

“Achraf may only be 22 years old and has already established himself as one of the most talented full-backs in world football – these are the standards we set at the club.”

 

AFP

Inter Milan Name Simone Inzaghi As Conte’s Successor

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 11, 2020 Lazio’s Italian head coach Simone Inzaghi cheers his players during the Italian Serie A football match Lazio Rome vs Sassuolo at the Olympic stadium in Rome. 
Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Serie A champions Inter Milan have named Simone Inzaghi as their new coach following the departure of Antonio Conte, the club announced on Thursday. 

Former Lazio boss and Italy international Inzaghi, 45, has signed a two-year deal at the San Siro.

Eight of the clubs that finished in the top 10 of Serie A have changed coach since the end of the season.

Inzaghi, the younger brother of former Juventus and AC Milan striker Filippo, left Lazio last week after a five-year spell in charge, turning down an offer of a contract extension to instead take up the challenge at Inter.

Conte walked away last month with a year still left on his deal following clashes with the club’s cash-strapped Chinese owners.

The ex-Juventus and Chelsea coach refused Suning’s planned cost-cutting which would have prevented him building the team he wanted to challenge at home and in Europe.

Conte led Inter to their 19th Italian league title, and first since Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning side in 2010.

Inzaghi will reportedly earn four million euros ($4.9 million) annually, almost three times less than Conte.

However, he could see versatile Morocco star Achraf Hakimi depart this summer along with Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez.

Hakimi, 22, is drawing strong interest from Paris Saint-Germain, while the 23-year-old Martinez has been linked with a move to Spain.

Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar is another player who could depart, although club officials have insisted they will limit the sales of first-team regulars.

Romelu Lukaku confirmed his future with Inter on Wednesday, revealing he had spoken to Inzaghi before the news of his appointment was made public.

“Yes, I’m staying at Inter. Maybe I shouldn’t say it yet but I’ve already talked with the man who is likely to become the new coach. It was a very positive conversation,” Lukaku told Belgian broadcaster VTM.

Inter will be Inzaghi’s second job in club management. He coached the youth teams at Lazio, where he spent much of his playing career, before taking over the main role in 2016.

He led Lazio to the last 16 of the Champions League last season, the club’s first appearance in Europe’s premier club competition since 2007-08.

-AFP

Juventus Play Inter Milan For Champions League Survival

File photo of Ronaldo and Lukaku

 

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo warned his side were “alive and kicking” as they take on Inter Milan for Champions League survival on Saturday.

Antonio Conte’s Inter have already wrapped up the Serie A title but the battle behind for a top four finish that would secure elite European football next season is tight.

Just three points separate second-placed Atalanta and Juventus in fifth with two games left to play.

Atalanta and AC Milan are equal on 75 points, followed by fourth-placed Napoli on 73 and Juventus on 72.

The Champions League spots could be decided this weekend.

If Atalanta and Milan win, both will have booked their spots as they have a better head-to-head record with Juve.

Juve have won just four of their last nine league games and need a win against Inter to have any chance of elite football.

“We’ve caused problems for ourselves lately, now we’ll go all out in our remaining matches,” said Pirlo.

If Juventus fail to win and Napoli get all three points at 13th-placed Fiorentina, the Turin side will be destined to play Europa League football next season.

“We’re still alive and kicking. It won’t be easy but we’ll keep fighting till the end,” added Pirlo with an Italian Cup final against Atalanta next Wednesday.

Juventus lost 2-0 to Inter at the San Siro earlier this season, with Conte’s side currently on a 20-match unbeaten run.

Pirlo will be counting on Serie A top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, and Paulo Dybala, who brought their tally to 100 goals for the club in a win over Sassuolo during the week.

“The only thing we’re thinking about now is qualifying for the Champions League,” said French midfielder Adrien Rabiot with Juve’s final game at Bologna.

“We’re a bit tired but we have to keep pulling out all the stops in the last two games and keep trying till the end.”

Atalanta travel to 14th-placed Genoa with AC Milan at home against relegation-threatened Cagliari after their seven-goal midweek win over Torino.

The Bergamo side host Milan in their final match of the season.

“Three points are missing,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

“We have to find them at Genoa.”

Milan are without injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic but shook off his absence with their Torino rout after a 3-0 win over Juventus and have not conceded a goal in their last three games.

“Two such important performances are a very important sign,” said coach Stefano Pioli.

“Two weeks ago they gave us all up for half dead, now we have our fate in our hands.

“We are 3km from the summit, until you finish anything can happen on the way up.”

At the bottom of the table four teams can still take the final relegation spot.

Benevento, currently occupying the position, can pick up points against already-relegated Crotone.

Torino and Spezia, both four points ahead of Benevento, go head-to-head in a direct clash for top flight survival.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Genoa v Atalanta, Spezia v Torino (1300GMT), Juventus v Inter Milan (1600), AS Roma v Lazio (1845)

Sunday

Fiorentina v Napoli (1030GMT), Benevento v Crotone, Udinese v Sampdoria (1300), Parma v Sassuolo (1600), AC Milan v Cagliari (1845)

-AFP

Inter Milan Win First Serie A Title Since 2010

FC Internazionale supporters celebrate at Piazza Duomo in Milan on May 2, 2021, after the team won the Italian Serie A Championship title. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

 

Inter Milan claimed the Serie A title on Sunday for the first time in 11 years to end Juventus’ nine-year reign in Italy.

Antonio Conte’s side clinched their 19th ‘Scudetto’ after nearest rivals Atalanta drew 1-1 at Sassuolo to leave the ‘Nerazzurri’ 13 points clear with four games remaining.

Conte had started Juventus’s record run, winning the first three titles in a winning streak that stretched from 2012 to 2020.

The 51-year-old took over Inter in 2019 and lifted the trophy after finishing second last season.

“I’m astonished,” said Conte.

“We’re breaking up a dynasty. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we’d make up this much ground on the team that dominated Serie A for nine years in the space of two seasons.

“This doesn’t mean we’re better than Juventus, they have a great squad; we’ve rolled our sleeves up and started doing some important work, trying to make ourselves credible.”

Inter are now second for league trophies in Italy, one ahead of city rivals AC Milan’s 18, but still some way short of Juventus’ 36.

The Lombardy side had not won Serie A since Jose Mourinho’s historic Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia treble in 2010.

Their last trophy was the Coppa Italia in 2011 and they missed out on the Champions League for six seasons before Luciano Spalletti returned them to Europe’s top club competition in 2018.

Conte is the 13th coach since Mourinho to sit on the ‘Nerazzurri’ bench and the club has changed hands twice over the past decade.

Billionaire Massimo Moratti, whose family controls Italian oil refiner Saras Group, sold to a consortium led by Indonesian business tycoon Erik Thohir in 2013, with Chinese electronics retailer Suning Holdings Group taking a majority stake in 2016.

FC Internazionale supporters celebrate at Piazza Duomo in Milan on May 2, 2021, after the team won the Italian Serie A Championship title. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

 

It is the first time that a foreign-owned Italian team has won the league title.

Inter targeted Conte to pull off what he had done at Juventus, who had finished seventh in the two previous seasons before his arrival in 2011.

Club president Steven Zhang hailed the arrival of “one of the best coaches out there, to make this club one of the best in the world again”.

Former Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta, who had worked alongside Conte in Turin, joined Inter as CEO for sport in 2018.

In addition to Conte’s reported annual salary of 12 million euros ($14.4 million) Inter splashed nearly 220 million euros on transfers in 2019 after his arrival.

“In coming here, I made the toughest decision,” said Conte.

“It’s a new planet for me. I tested myself, I love big challenges.

“It wasn’t easy to win over all the fans and I understand that, but I’m convinced that I’ve always given my all for the teams that I coach.”

Conte has turned the team into a competitive unit again after two fourth-place finishes under Spalletti.

Despite a mixed start to this campaign, Conte found the winning formula and Saturday’s 2-0 win at Crotone stretched their unbeaten run to 18 games.

After Inter crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage for the third consecutive season, finishing bottom of their group, and their Coppa Italia exit, the club could focus on their league campaign.

A 2-0 win over Juventus in January fuelled their ambitions, followed by a 3-0 success over AC Milan in February to pull ahead in the table.

Spearheaded by Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku and Argentine Lautaro Martinez Inter cemented their title credentials with a run of 11 consecutive wins before being held by Napoli on April 18.

For goalkeeper and captain Samir Handanovic, the most senior member of the squad at 36 years old, it was a first title after many setbacks since his arrival in 2012.

The triumph ends Juve’s golden era with the gamble on coaching novice Andrea Pirlo, who played under Conte and took over from Maurizio Sarri last summer.

Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo remains the top scorer, but Juve suffered frequent injuries to players including forward Paolo Dybala and veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

The demise of a reign which followed the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal and relegation to Serie B in 2006, sees Juventus now fighting for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season.

The Champions League will be Inter’s new challenge, having not reached the last 16 since the 2011/12 season.

However, the future ownership of the club remains in doubt with Inter making losses of 100 million euros last season mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Suning Group shut down their Chinese club Jiangsu FC in February just months after it won the Chinese Super League title.

Talk of a sale have been denied by the club in recent months by Suning who estimate the club’s value at one billion euros.

AFP

Inter Milan Withdraw From Super League

This picture taken in Milan on April 20, 2021 shows the headquarters of Inter Milan. 
Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan have withdrawn from the European Super League (ESL) project after the departure of all six English clubs as well as Atletico Madrid, the Italian club announced on Wednesday.

“Inter Milan confirm that the club is no longer part of the Super League project,” the Serie A leaders said in a statement.

The Chinese-owned outfit are the first Italian side to withdraw from the 12-team project which also includes Juventus and AC Milan.

“We are always committed to giving fans the best football experience; innovation and inclusion are part of our DNA since our foundation,” the Inter statement read.

“Our engagement with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change.

“Inter believes that football, like every sector of activity, must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions, to keep on exciting fans of all ages around the world, within a framework of financial sustainability.

“With this vision we look forward to carry on working together with institutions and all stakeholders for the future of the sport we all love.”

The entourage of Juventus president Andrea Agnelli told AFP on Wednesday the proposed ESL can no longer exist without the six English clubs.

Replying to AFP’s question whether “the Super League stops without the English clubs,” the source replied in the affirmative, the day after Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal withdrew.

Three Spanish sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico were also involved in the project.

-AFP

Lukaku Pulls Inter 11 Clear, Dybala Scores In Victorious Juve Return

Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte (L) congratulates Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku at the end of the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Sassuolo on April 7, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)

 

 

Romelu Lukaku powered Inter Milan closer to their first league title in over a decade by scoring and setting up Lautaro Martinez for the second in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Sassuolo to move 11 points clear at the top of Serie A.

Champions Juventus are 12 points behind Inter in third after beating Napoli 2-1, as Paulo Dybala scored on his return after nearly three months out and the league’s leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo also on target.

Both fixtures had been rescheduled because of coronavirus outbreaks at Inter last month and Napoli in early October.

Lukaku got his head to an Ashley Young cross to score his 21st league goal this campaign after in the 10th minute at the San Siro and then laid on Lautaro for the second midway through the second half.

Hamed Junior Traore pulled a goal back for the visitors with five minutes to go and Lukaku had a goal ruled offside before Inter claimed a 10th consecutive league win to strengthen their grip on the title.

Antonio Conte’s side are on course for a 19th Serie A title and first since 2010.

Juve’s push for a 10th consecutive league title had faltered after taking just one point from their last two league games against lowly Benevento and Torino.

However their win against Napoli was crucial for their Champions League ambitions next season with both teams equal on points in fourth place before kick-off in Turin.

Juve were without Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi who tested positive for Covid-19 after international duty with Italy.

Dybala started on the bench, having being dropped for the derby match with Torino last weekend after breaking lockdown rules with teammates Weston McKennie and Arthur Melo.

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku runs with the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Sassuolo on April 7, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)

 

Ronaldo missed a chance to put the champions ahead after two minutes when headed wide, before Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski also fired over not long afterwards.

But good work from Federico Chiesa allowed the Portuguese to net 25th Serie A goal this campaign after quarter of an hour.

Chiesa beat two defenders before rolling the ball across to meet Ronaldo who finished off low past Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.

Veteran Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon did well to deny Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo after the break and Fabian Ruiz midway through the second half.

Dybala came off the bench along with McKennie with 20 minutes to go and the Argentine had an immediate impact, curling in a Rodrigo Bentancur cross four minutes later.

Lorenzo Insigne pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the final moments after Victor Osimhen was brought down by Giorgio Chiellini in the box.

Juventus overtook Atalanta to move third with the two teams meeting in Bergamo next week, when Inter travel to Napoli.

Inter Milan’s Arturo Vidal To Undergo Knee Surgery

Inter Milan’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal warms up during the Italian Serie A football match Parma vs Inter Milan on March 04, 2021 at the Ennio-Tardini stadium in Parma.
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan’s Chilean international midfielder Arturo Vidal is set to undergo surgery for a left knee problem, the Serie A leaders announced on Thursday.

“Arturo Vidal will undergo surgery tomorrow (Friday) for meniscal pain in his left knee,” Inter Milan said in a brief statement.

The 33-year-old former Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen player could be sidelined for up to a month, according to Italian media reports.

Vidal, who has scored two goals in 30 games since moving to Inter from Barcelona last summer, looks set to miss their next three league games against Torino, Sassuolo and Bologna before the international break.

Antonio Conte could recover Vidal for the match against Cagliari on April 11 or Napoli the following week.

Inter are top of the league with a six-point lead on AC Milan as they target a first league title since 2010 with champions Juventus a further four points back in third.

AFP

Serie A: Lukaku Scores In Inter’s Thrashing Of AC Milan

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku shoots to score the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan beat city rivals AC Milan 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday as Lautaro Martinez scored a double, with Romelu Lukaku also on target.

Inter opened up a four-point lead over their second-placed opponents as Antonio Conte’s side target a first league title since their unprecedented treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010.

Lukaku was on top form, the Belgian playing a role in Martinez’s two goals on five and 57 minutes before scoring his 17th goal in the league this season to move top of the Serie A scorers’ chart.

Milan, chasing a first Scudetto since 2011, fell to back-to-back Serie A losses for the first time this season, with their title push suffering another blow with a fourth defeat in eight league games.

“We’ve suffered a lot this year,” said Martinez.

“Two eliminations in the Italian Cup and the Champions League, this is the only goal we have left and we’re fighting for that.”

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (R) celebrates with Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez (C), Inter Milan’s Romanian goalkeeper Ionut Andrei Radu (Top R), Inter Milan’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal (Top C) and Inter Milan’s Italian goalkeeper Daniele Padelli (2ndL) after scoring the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

The match was played behind closed doors at the San Siro because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that did not stop thousands of fans gathering outside the stadium for the final Milan derby of the season.

It was the third derby of the season, with Milan winning the first 2-1 in the league.

Inter won a fiery Italian Cup quarter-final by the same scoreline, a game overshadowed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lukaku squaring off and trading insults, with the Swede later sent off.

The supporters waited for the team buses to arrive, waving flags and singing, dispersing once the teams had entered the stadium grounds.

The game was also preceded by a minute’s silence and applause for former Inter defender Mauro Bellugi who died aged 71 years on Saturday, months after having both his legs amputated because of coronavirus.

– ‘Tough week’ –
Inter were fresher having been eliminated early from European action, with Milan coming off a 2-2 Europa League midweek draw at Red Star Belgrade.

And Conte’s side came out firing with Lukaku powering down the right flank.

Milan defender Simon Kjaer blocked his initial cross, but the ball returned to the Belgian for a perfect delivery for Martinez to nod home.

Ibrahimovic threated with a back-heel flick after quarter of an hour following a scramble in the box but Inter keeper Samir Handanovic kept it out.

Milan Skriniar headed wide before the break from a Christian Eriksen free-kick.

Inter players celebrate winning at the end of the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma got his hand to the ball to deny Ivan Perisic, with Handanovic pulling off a double save from Ibrahimovic after the break.

But Martinez broke through again, finishing off a Perisic pull-back from the by-line in a move started by Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.

Donnarumma denied Lukaku minutes later but the former Manchester United striker then burst through to score the third, becoming the first Inter player to score in four straight Serie A derbies since Benito Lorenzi in 1950.

Ibrahimovic asked to be substituted with a quarter of an hour to go complaining of calf cramps.

“A striker depends on the team’s performance,” said Pioli.

“The goal after five minutes weighed heavy.

“In the first half we could have done more. In the second half we had many scoring chances, but Handanovic hasn’t saved so well for a long time.”

“If we had been told months ago that we would now be second, everyone would have jumped for joy, but this would not be us.

“We didn’t do our best in the last three games and we know we can do something more.

“It was a tough week, the worst one of the season.”

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

Inter next host 11th-placed Genoa with Milan travelling to Roma, with the capital side third before they play Benevento later on Sunday.

“Ragazzi!!!!!! With full heart and great work we will never stop,” Chinese-owned Inter’s club president Steven Zhang wrote on Instagram.

Defending champions Juventus, in fifth, 11 points behind Inter, play catch-up at home against lowly Crotone on Monday.

AFP

Lautaro Hat-Trick Sends Six-Goal Inter Milan Top Of Serie A

Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez kisses the ball after scoring the 3-2 goal during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Crotone on January 3, 2021 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Lautaro Martinez scored a hat-trick as Inter Milan kicked off 2021 in blistering form with a 6-2 win over lowly Crotone on Sunday to take top spot in Serie A.

Inter claimed an eighth consecutive league win to move two points ahead of AC Milan who travel to midtable Benevento later on Sunday with champions Juventus hosting Udinese.

Martinez and Romelu Lukaku proved decisive for the northerners, the strike duo being involved in five of Inter’s goals.

Antonio Conte’s side had been pegged back 2-2 at the break with Niccolo Zanellato breaking through with a 12th-minute header for the promoted Calabrians who are second from bottom with the worst attack in the league.

But Martinez picked up a Lukaku cross to pull the hosts level eight minutes later.

Martinez had a role in Inter’s second just after half an hour when Crotone defender Luca Marrone turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Argentina forward.

Vladimir Golemic put the sides level six minutes later after Arturo Vidal fouled Arkadiusz Reca, with Conte replacing the Chilean midfielder after the break.

Martinez pulled Inter ahead before the hour connecting with a Marcelo Brozovic through ball and headed in his third with 12 minutes to go off a rebound.

Lukaku blasted in his 50th goal in the Inter jersey after 64 minutes before going off after taking a knock to his thigh, before Achraf Hakimi sealed the win with three minutes to go.

“There is a great desire and it shows,” said Conte as Inter target their first Serie A title since 2010 with their European campaign over this season.

“It’s important to continue like this, we produce and create a lot, we score a lot of goals, it’s a pity for the goals conceded.”

AFP