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