Monday August 10 2020
EL: Inter brush past Bayer Leverkusen

Inter are in the Europa League semi-finals after a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, with Nicolò Barella and Romelu Lukaku goals, but so many wasted chances and two non-penalties.

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This was the opening tie in the Europa League Final Eight tournament, played entirely in Germany behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antonio Conte picked the same XI that beat Getafe 2-0 last week, while Leverkusen had Mitchell Weiser and Kerem Demirbay back from suspension, but Charles Aranguiz sat out a ban. Sven Bender picked up an injury during the warm-up, replaced by Jonathan Tah.

Inter scored with their first real chance, a well-worked team move. Lautaro Martinez’s back-heel flick started it, Romelu Lukaku had a shot charged down, but then held off a defender to set up Nicolò Barella, who steered a wonderful finish into the far bottom corner from the edge of the box with the outside of his right boot.

Barella almost completed his brace moments later, set up by a Lautaro Martinez shimmy down the right, but his shot was charged down.

Inter were on fire, as Lukaku showed his extraordinary strength to become the first ever player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League/UEFA Cup games. He was dragged down by Edmond Tapsoba, but still managed to turn and get the finish away from nine yards to beat Lukas Hradecky.

It was so nearly 3-0 with Lukaku sent clear by a through ball, but Hradecky stood tall and was able to parry one-on-one.

Instead, it was Bayer who got one back, as Kai Havertz was kept onside by Diego Godin to blast in from six yards, the ball squirming under Samir Handanovic after a smart Kevin Volland pass.

There was more drama moments later, as the referee awarded a penalty for a Daley Sinkgraven handling offence. However, after viewing it again on the VAR monitor, the official acknowledged Sinkgraven had been pulling his arm out of the way and Danilo D’Ambrosio’s cross hit him practically on the shoulder, so the decision was reversed.

After the restart, Lukaku accidentally got in the way of Roberto Gagliardini’s attempt from close range, then the midfielder went on a strong run from his own half, but should’ve passed rather than going for goal.

Conte threw on Christian Eriksen and Victor Moses, while Leon Bailey was introduced for the Germans.

Demirbay stung Handanovic’s gloves, but substitute Alexis Sanchez was sent clear by Eriksen only to hit it straight at Hradecky, as did Moses at the near post.

Leon Bailey’s cross flashed past everyone across the face of goal, two Leverkusen players unable to get the final touch, above all Havertz.

In the final minute, Eriksen was pulled back by Bellarabi and the referee pointed to the spot. However, just as in the first half, the referee changed his mind after a VAR on-field review, because Barella had handballed just before the foul.

Inter 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Barella 15 (I), Lukaku 21 (I), Havertz 25 (L)

Inter: Handanovic; Godin, De Vrij, Bastoni (Skriniar 84); D’Ambrosio (Moses 59), Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini (Eriksen 59), Young; R Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez (Alexis Sanchez 64)

Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky; L Bender (Alario 85), Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven (Wendell 68); Palacios (Bailey 59), Baumgartlinger (Amiri 68); Havertz, Demirbay, Diaby; Volland (Alario 85)

Ref: Del Cerro Grande (ESP)

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