zenduck.me: Romelu Lukakus Inter Milan return A 30 victory marked the former Chelsea strikers second San Siro debut

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Milan– Only 454 days after he left, Romelu Lukaku returned to San Siro as Inter Milan won 3-0 against Spezia. All eyes were on him and on center back Milan Skriniar, who is set to stay at Inter after ownership decided to keep him despite Paris Saint-Germain’s interest. The two were applauded during pre-match warmups, when Lukaku had his first real contact with the fans since he first left a year ago to join Chelsea. When the striker entered the pitch the majority of the fans supported him despite the way he left the club in August 2022. However, Inter ultras didn’t forget. They greeted all the players, including new signings Kristjan Asllani and Raoul Bellanova with individualized chants, but not for Lukaku. Nor did they chant for him in the second half when he was subbed off. It’s a clear signal that he needs time and goals to gain their trust once again. 

As for the match against Spezia itself, both Inter and Lukaku, struggled a bit to find rhythm early on. For Lukaku, it shouldn’t be surprising if it takes some time to adjust, as while the tactical system of Simone Inzaghi is similar to the Antonio Conte game plan which Lukaku performed so well under, it also differes in significant ways. Lukaku didn’t find a lot of space between the lines, and neither he, nor his strike partner, Lautaro Martinez seemed in sync for most of the first half. 

But, soccer games can change in a second. This one changed at minute 35. Nicolò Barella (who also wasn’t in his best form up to that point) found Lukaku inside the box, and the striker found his partner Martinez, as he did so many times during their last stint together, on his left, and the Argentine had no hesitation, scoring the opening goal of the night. The LuLa, as the partnership has been dubbed, is back. From that moment on, many things changed on the pitch and Lukaku seemed to flow into the game. The Nerazzurri were more relaxed and had more chances to add to their lead. Lukaku had an incredible opportunity but his header hit the post and prevented him from scoring in the first half. 

If the first half was an uneven combination of nerves and tactical adaptation, the second half fully showed why Inter decided to bring Lukaku back to Serie A soccer and why he so desperately wanted that comeback. His dominance on the pitch was clear and proved crucial for the second goal of the match, when the former Chelsea striker held up play, fending off four Spezia defenders before the ball fell to the feet of Hakan Calhanoglu who seized the opportunity to score a very nice goal from inside the box. Lukaku’s match ended after 66 minutes when Inzaghi replaced him with Edin Dzeko. While he was walking to the bench the whole stadium clapped him and he returned the favor. Ultimately, Inter would add one more goal through Joaquin Correa, but it was clear that the main story of the night was always going to be Lukaku. 

Overall, the attitude of Lukaku was positive, he desperately wants to bring the home fans fully back on his side after what happened over the last twelve months. But there is still a lot of work to do to reach the same level of connection with his teammates, especially with Martinez. Conte’s way of playing forced the team to play mostly on counterattacks and made the work easier for players like Lukaku as he had more space to attack. In this new tactical system under Inzaghi, he has to be more involved in the whole action and this forces him to play in a different way. Against Spezia he only had a single shot and created two chances for others, while having the fewest touches of any Inter starter. 

Time will tell us if he can fit in the same way as he did two years ago when he brought back the Scudetto to Milan, but the start is positive enough. The Nerazzurri gained six points from the first two matches of the new season and the fans accepted their striker back. Whether that connection stays so positive will depend on how well Lukaku adapts to the new system he finds himself in.