Carlos was officially recognized as the goalscorer, although Lukaku’s slumped shoulders and bowed head as Sevilla players celebrated the party suggested that the deflection of his foot meant he viewed it as an own goal. For a center-forward who had already scored his 34th of the campaign, tying Ronaldo Nazario’s record for an Inter player in his first year at the club, it was a cruel way to end an extraordinary first season .
That meant Inter’s nine-year wait for a trophy would now stretch over a decade, but it also meant redemption for Julen Loeptegui. In 2018, he left the Spanish national team on the eve of the World Cup for Real Madrid, only to be sacked after just a few months in this role. A similar fate seemed likely earlier this year, though his persistence was rewarded with his first silverware as a coach.
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Despite the constant turnover of players, even if they have never been quite able to last among the European elite, Sevilla remain strangely dominant at this subsidiary level. Few liked Lopetegui’s side at the start of this mini-tournament in northwest Germany a fortnight ago, although two goals from Luuk de Jong and the touch from Lukaku reminded everyone at the RheinEnergieStadion de Cologne to ignore their Europa League pedigree at your peril.
Much like against Manchester United in the semi-final, a noisy group of Spanish club dignitaries with flags and scarves sitting high on the edge of the second tier made up for the lack of Andalusian crowds. They would end up celebrating long into the night but again, just like against United in the semifinals, they spent the first few minutes roaring in vain protest as Carlos conceded an early penalty.
If Carlos is a real target for players like Manchester City and Arsenal during this window, he has to hope they missed the first three minutes, as well as the other two kicks he conceded in his mini-tournament. And in the event of a fault, it could have been a little more subtle. The way he fought Lukaku from behind as he entered the penalty area left no doubt in referee Danny Makkelle’s mind.
Lukaku converted low and strong in the lower left corner to score in an 11th consecutive Europa League game and tie with Ronaldo. His childhood memories of watching the Brazilian in this competition played a key role in his decision to opt for Milan over Turin while choosing his escape route out of Old Trafford last summer and having matched him. will always be a very dear step in his career. , although her evening would have a heart-wrenching climax.
The similarities to Sunday’s semi-final on this pitch did not begin and ended with an early penalty. Once again, Sevilla once again responded to the pass behind with furious intensity. Once again, Jesus Navas had the time and space to choose a cross on the right. Once again, De Jong escaped the attention of the opposition defense and flatly punished their recklessness.
The winner of Sunday’s game restored parity with a brilliant diving header. Samir Handanovic’s reactions were quick enough to reach for the ball but his hand wasn’t strong enough to stop it, such was the strength of De Jong’s connection. The pace was set and the spirits started to unravel, but the first yellow card was thrown across the sideline. Conte protested another penalty cry against Carlos – this time for handball – too vigorously.
Conte’s mood didn’t improve when De Jong put Sevilla in the lead with a simple but devastating routine. The Newcastle outcast went unnoticed again, running behind Inter’s defense line, as Ever Banega threw a free kick at the far post. Roberto Gagliardini finally spotted De Jong’s run but too late to prevent another fine header, this one on a helpless Handanovic and in the far corner.
And yet, in accordance with this breathtaking start, this lead did not last more than three minutes. While De Jong’s distant arrival was studied and taken into account, the product of practice on the training ground, Godin’s connection to Marcelo Brozovic’s free kick was born out of brute force. Decor doesn’t always have to be smart. Sometimes it is enough to pass your marker and aim the ball well. It was enough to draw the Inter level.
Perhaps Lukaku should have completed the turnaround when he was head-to-head in the middle of the second half. Instead, he shot Bono directly. It was a bad miss, but it wouldn’t be the worst part of her evening. With just over a quarter of an hour to go, Inter failed to properly clear another Banega save. Carlos’ bike kick was optimistic at best, but more importantly, he sent the ball into an area that raised questions for Inter. Lukaku pulled out his boot in an attempt to block and clear, then quickly realized he had given the wrong answer.