zenduck.me: Thierry Henry on Romelu Lukakus Champions League miss for Inter He is going to have to live with that

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Romelu Lukaku’s 33-minute cameo for Inter in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final defeat to Manchester City perfectly summed up the Belgian star’s recent struggles in a nutshell. The 30-year-old offered his Italian club greater bite in attack yet was unable to find the back of the net, more due to bad luck than poor play and could find himself a scapegoat again.

Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, and unlikely to seal a permanent Inter return, has found his second stint harder than the first which reached prolific heights just two years ago. However, it was not through a lack of effort that this time has not worked out for the Nerazzurri and the Belgium international on the whole.

Lukaku was sent on with just over 30 minutes to go in Turkey with Simone Inzaghi asking him to give Inter more of a physical presence up top, which is what he immediately set about doing. Inter’s No. 90 had only been on the field at Ataturk Olympic Stadium for a few minutes yet his entrance and new impetus immediately brought something for his team.

Rather than dropping as deep as Edin Dzeko had before him, Lukaku made himself a target for his midfield to aim for, which meant that Lautaro Martinez finally got into the game. The Argentine spurned the best chance moments later when Bernardo Silva accidentally gifted him with a one-on-one against Ederson, which Martinez was unable to put away.

Even then, although it was not Lukaku involved with the chance, his mere presence and greater ability to win duels than Dzeko was unsettling City at the back. Despite Rodri opening the scoring for City, Inter were still dangerous and Federico Dimarco was close to an almost immediate equalizer just minutes after the goal.

Unfortunately for Lukaku, he did not know much about it once the Italy international’s header had come back off the crossbar and Dimarco’s follow-up hit him and possibly denied the Beneamata. It was not at all deliberate, yet very in-line with the former Manchester United man’s struggles since leaving Inter in 2021 to return to Chelsea.

Sometimes, like back at the FIFA 2022 World Cup with the Red Devils, he does himself no favors but this was not one of those and Dimarco was just unfortunate to hit his teammate instead of the net. Lukaku was not done yet, though, and he forced Ederson to make solid save with about 20 minutes to go which was as much as the Coppa Italia champions had created up until that point.

There was another glorious chance which arrived minutes from the end when Robin Gosens headed across goal for a seemingly straightforward finish. Ederson and Ruben Dias somehow kept Lukaku out, though, and it turned out to be the best opening Inter would have along with Martinez’s earlier missed chance.

“He is going to have to go through exactly what he went through after the World Cup,” said CBS Sports soccer analyst Thierry Henry postgame. “People will still, although I think it was a tough one with Dimarco, people will still blame him. The header in the six-yard box will come back to haunt him. He is going to have to live with that. I have lost finals, I have won finals — sometimes you are not on the right side.”

It might not have been Lukaku’s night but it was far from a disappointing outing and if anything, it showed that the big Belgian still has plenty to offer at this level. There is little chance of his return stay being extended by Inter yet he was still committed and physically involved enough that he was also booked.

Blaming Lukaku would be easy, but Martinez’s miss was equally as costly and the former’s required some miraculous goalkeeping from Ederson and defending by Dias. The latter could and should have worked the Brazilian shot stopper better when gifted his opportunity while Lukaku’s was a fight to get the chances that he had.

Nobody knows what the future holds for him, but this showing and his return to form late in the season suggests that he could be rounding back towards some sort of balance between form and fitness after his struggles. Despite what might be a difficult period coming with some bound to blame him for this, others will see how his impact gave Inter a shot at upsetting City.