Inter Milan showed a certain kind of ruthlessness to smash Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in the second semi-final of the Europa League on Monday night and booked their meeting with Sevilla in the final.
Antonio Conte’s men were clinical and their forward line came to the fore again as Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku scored a brace each to help the Nerazzurri to win with a convincing but a flattering 5-0 scoreline.
Conte’s team produced on the big day and a season of progress for the Serie A giants could now end with a trophy if they beat Sevilla in the final on Friday night.
#1 Who needs possession if you can be clinical in front of goal?
Shakhtar Donetsk nearly enjoyed two-third of the ball and converted 276 passes more than their opponents Inter Milan during the game. But they had one shot on target compared to Inter’s nine and most importantly, the Serie A giants scored five unanswered goals.
Antonio Conte’s side proved on the night that possession without penetration is useless in football and they played to their strengths of defending in numbers and then breaking at pace.
Once Inter Milan got the early goal from Lautaro Martinez, the pattern of the game was going to suit them with their hard-working midfield and their defensive shape.
And in Martinez and Romelu Lukaku, they have the forward line who are clinical in front of goal and can break down any defence in Europe on their night. Unfortunately for Shakhtar, it was their night.
#2 Romelu Lukaku proving his last season at Manchester United was an aberration
Romelu Lukaku had a point to prove when he completed a big-money move from Manchester United to Inter Milan last summer.
He was poor in his last season at Manchester United although he still had a night to remember against Paris Saint-Germain, the feeling was that both he and the club needed a change.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was prepared to offload as he was not the kind of forward he wanted to build his side around despite being aware of his qualities.
At Inter Milan, Lukaku found a manager in Antonio Conte who was chasing him since the Italian was at Chelsea and was prepared to play a system that would get the best out of him and the Belgian has thrived.
He has scored 33 goals in all competitions this season, just one shy of the record Ronaldo had set during his first year at Inter.
Lukaku has scored in ten straight Europa League games, setting up a new record and is again looking like the forward who terrorized Premier League defences during his time at Everton and West Brom and his first season at Manchester United.
The deal has worked out for all the parties concerned – Manchester United got good money for a striker who Solskjaer wanted to sell and Inter Milan got their talisman upfront.
#3 Lautaro Martinez showed why Barcelona and Manchester City want him
Ahead of last night’s game, Lautaro Martinez was under pressure to put out a performance of real substance. He had scored just once in his last eight games and was subbed off in five of them.
But the Argentine removed any doubts over his ability with a clinical performance against Shakhtar on the big stage.
Martinez scored the first and third goals of the night that killed the Ukrainian outfit’s hopes of reaching the Europa League final.
He almost pulled off an outrageous lob over the goalkeeper’s head as well and provided the assist for Romelu Lukaku’s second goal and Inter Milan’s fifth.
The Argentine was on his game, constantly harrying defenders with his pressing and most importantly, was dead-eyed clinical when inside the penalty box. It is clear to see why Barcelona are keen to take him to the Camp Nou and Manchester City are eyeing him as Sergio Aguero’s long term replacement.
At 22, Martinez is already very good and ability-wise, he has a very high ceiling.
#4 Junior Moraes’ miss came back to haunt Shakhtar Donetsk
Despite enjoying close to two-thirds of the possession, Shakhtar only created one good opportunity to score and it could have changed the course of the game last night.
Inter Milan were still, just 1-0 up and following the hour mark, an inch-perfect cross was delivered on Junior Moraes’ head but the forward’s header was straight at Samir Handanovic in the Inter goal. The ball just hit the Nerazzurri’s goalkeeper’s glove rather than him making an active save.
Had it gone in, the score would have been level and Inter Milan would have been forced to change their game plan in the final half-hour of the game. But the score remained 1-0 and Inter plundered four more goals as Shakhtar became more desperate to break the Nerazzurri down.
Moraes and his Shakhtar team-mates could be forgiven to ponder on what could have been had the forward hit the back of the net at that crucial stage of the game.
#5 Winning the Europa League will only strengthen Antonio Conte’s hands and it would be a headache for his Inter Milan bosses.
Can anyone ever satisfy Antonio Conte? It is a question that has been the theme of his coaching career from Juventus to Chelsea and now at Inter Milan.
Conte is known for his outbursts in press conferences and loaded words for his club hierarchy. The Italian was at it again this season where Inter just finished a point behind champions Juventus in Serie A.
The Inter Milan coach was not satisfied and did complain that he and his players were not protected by the club when to quote him, they were taking shit from everyone.
Following the end of the league campaign, Inter Milan CEO Giuseppe Marotta reflected on a good first season for Conte and how they can build on it next year. But Conte was quick to contradict his boss moments later in another interview.
And this is despite Inter Milan backing him as much in the transfer market as possible for a club of Inter’s resources.
If Inter Milan win the Europa League on Friday, it would be a wonderful end for the season for Conte and his players. But his bosses would have to brace for another summer of Conte sending transfer messages to them through the media.
They would do well to remember, Conte walked away from Juventus just a few days into pre-season in 2014. That man is never satisfied.