Saturday, December 5, 2020

Inter 4-2 Torino: Lukaku inspires stunning Nerazzurri comeback

Romelu Lukaku inspired a remarkable second-half comeback as Inter recovered from 2-0 down to defeat Torino 4-2 and claim their first win for almost a month.

Marco Giampaolo’s Torino came into the match with a solitary Serie A win to their name this season but belied that meagre return as the effervescent Simone Zaza crowned an enterprising first-half display with the opening goal.

A penalty from former Inter man Cristian Ansaldi made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute, although Alexis Sanchez swiftly reduced the arrears.

Sanchez turned provider for Lukaku to level in the 67th minute and the Belgium star kept his cool from the spot six minutes from the end of normal time, before Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to make it four shots on target and four goals for Inter in a crazy second half.

Inter struggled throughout the opening period and had a reprieve as Alessandro Bastoni hauled down Zaza when in on goal, only for the Torino forward to be penalised for handball.

Conte’s men could not claim a lack of fair warning when Zaza latched on to Soualiho Meite’s backheel in stoppage time and lashed a brilliant left-footed strike past Samir Handanovic.

Despite resuming on the front foot, Inter reached the hour without testing Salvatore Sirigu in the Torino goal, at which point their task got steeper.

After a long delay and a VAR review, Ashley Young was correctly penalised for kicking Wilfried Stephane Singo in the chest when he misjudged a clearance and Ansaldi dispatched his penalty down the middle of the goal.

That belatedly sparked Inter into life, with Lukaku driving at the Torino defence and hitting the bar, before making enough of a nuisance of himself in the ensuing scramble for Sanchez to thump into an unguarded net.

Torino were suddenly rattled and after Lukaku hit the outside of the post he tapped in Sanchez’s low cross.

Nicolas Nkoulou became the latest defender to kick flesh – Achraf Hakimi, in his case – rather than the ball and the VAR call was consistent, leaving Lukaku to send Sirigu the wrong way.

The ex-Manchester United man then linked with Ivan Perisic in the sweeping move that got Martinez on the scoresheet via a simple finish.

What does it mean? Conte breathes a sigh of relief

Antonio Conte has cut an increasingly tetchy figure of late, with Inter’s previous win coming at Genoa on October 24. Plenty of questions will remain, for his team were utterly abject for an hour, but the Nerazzurri are back to within a point of champions Juventus in Serie A and only three shy of surprise leaders Sassuolo.

Lukaku proves Inter’s talisman

Much of the criticism of Conte has focused upon how his complaints over the options at his disposal jar when considering one of the most lavishly upholstered squads in Europe. He wheeled Perisic, Martinez, Stefan de Vrij, Radja Nainggolan and Milan Skriniar off the bench as Torino collapsed during the final half hour. Christian Eriksen looked on unused.

If some of the names on the squad list have not always played to their reputation, that accusation cannot be levelled at Lukaku. The striker’s formidable combination of power and intelligent precision forced Torino apart at the seams. He ended a virtuoso display with two goals from two shots on target and two assists, with only Sanchez making more than his three key passes.

Wayward Zaza unfortunate to finish empty-handed

If Lukaku is something of a sure thing nowadays, such labels of reliability have never been easily applied to the mercurial Zaza. The well-travelled forward produced his sparkling best at times, with a bizarre early sequence where he chested the ball up for an overhead kick, missed it entirely but still got a shot off while on his backside inimitably demonstrating he was in the mood.

The former Juventus and Valencia forward rattled off seven shots, although only two finding the target spoke of what might have been.

What’s next?

Inter will hope to revive their ailing Champions League campaign when they host Real Madrid on Wednesday. Torino have a fixture with considerably less box office appeal a day later when they welcome Virtus Entella in the Coppa Italia.

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