Romelu Lukaku scored for a record-breaking ninth consecutive Europa League match as Inter Milan secured their place in the semi-finals with a dramatic 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
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The Serie A side took the lead inside 15 minutes when Nicolo Barella found the bottom corner following some smart play from Lukaku. And the Belgian then grabbed his record-breaking goal after shooting on the turn following some brilliant hold-up play.
The former Manchester United man was bullying the Leverkusen defence and almost put the game to bed when he was played through on goal, only to be denied by a brilliant save from Lukas Hradecky.
And sixty seconds later the German outfit were back in the game after superstar Kai Havertz had time and space to rifle past Samir Handanovic inside the box.
The drama continued when Inter were awarded a penalty a minute later after Daley Sinkgraven was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the box, but with Lukaku ready and waiting to step up, VAR stepped in and ruled out the spot kick.
The second 45 minutes carried on in kind with plenty of drama as Leverkusen pressed for an equaliser and Inter pushed for a killer goal.
Leverkusen's German midfielder Kai Havertz (L) and Inter Milan's Uruguayan defender Diego Godin vie for the ball during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Duesseldorf Arena on August 10, 2020 in Du
Image credit: Getty Images
Roberto Gagliardini and substitutes Victor Moses and Alexis Sanchez both had great chances for Inter only to be denied by the brilliant Hradecky, while Kerem Demirbay also went close for Leverkusen.
But despite the German side's best efforts and a late onslaught, Antonio Conte's men held on for a place in the final four despite being denied yet another penalty by VAR.
Leverkusen's long season is finally over but the future of Havertz - linked heavily with Chelsea - remains very much in doubt.
Inter revive familiar faces. Inter seem to have developed a fine system of revitalising former Manchester United stars. Romelu Lukaku scored for a record ninth Europa League match in a row and should have scored more than one - he actually could have scored three or four. Ashley Young was excellent all evening down the left, while Alexis Sanchez also looked dangerous when he came on. They're doing something right, and thanks to that they're in the final four and two matches away from a Europa League final. And they could still yet meet Manchester United there...
Inter Milan's Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) celebrates scoring the 2-0 with his teamates Inter Milan's midfielder Ashley Young during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Duesseldorf Arena on Aug
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Lukas Hradecky (Bayer Leverkusen): The Leverkusen shotstopper was simply phenomenal this evening and without him this match would have been over in half an hour. Inter peppered the Leverkusen goal but were bested by Hradecky who single-handedly kept his team in the game. Unlucky to be on the losing side.
Inter XI: Handanovic (7), Godin (7), De Vrij (7), Baston (6), D'Ambrosio (6), Barella (7), Brozovic (5), Gagliardini (6), Young (7), Lukaku (8), Lautaro (6). Subs. Moses (5), Eriksen (6), Sanchez (6), Skriniar (n/a).
Leverkusen XI: Hradecky (9), Tah (7), Tapsoba (7), Sinkgraven (6), Baumgartlinger (6), Lars Bender (7), Palacios (6), Demirbay (6), Diaby (7), Havertz (7), Volland (5). Subs. Bailey (6), Wendell (5), Amiri (5), Bellarabi (n/a).
15' - GOAL! Inter 1-0 Leverkusen (Barella): Inter take the lead! Young finds Lukaku in the box and when the Belgian's shot on the turn is blocked, Barella is there to pick up the pieces and finds the bottom corner.
21' - GOAL! Inter 2-0 Leverkusen (Lukaku): A record-breaking goal for the Belgian! Nine in a row in the Europa League. Lautaro finds Barella in the box and Hradecky makes an incredible save. But Leverkusen fail to clear their lines and Young finds Lukaku in the box and it's the same old story. The striker holds up play and dominates his marker into letting him shoot on the turn, sliding past the Leverkusen 'keeper.
25' - GOAL! Inter 2-1 Leverkusen (Havertz) What a match this is! Inter should have put this to bed sixty seconds ago but straight up the other end Kai Havertz rifles past Handanovic. Inter allowed the superstar so much space. They're back in it!
26' - PENALTY TO INTER! Lukaku is ready on the spot but VAR are having a look...It's Sinkgraven who is adjudged to have handled but there's no way the arm is moving towards the ball. Surely not!
28' - NO PENALTY! The ref takes a closer look and takes the spot kick away from Lukaku. So strange, the Belgian was ready and waiting. But to be fair, Inter didn't even claim a handball there. This is pure drama.
90' - PENALTY TO INTER! Eriksen brought down and this time it is a penalty! Lukaku steps up.
90+1' - BUT VAR IS CHECKING! Lukaku is ready again but the ref is checking again!
90+2' - NO PENALTY! Just carnage. The ref sees an Inter handball in the build-up and rules it out.
Inter Milan have reached their first European semi-final since 2009/10 in the Champions League, while this is the eighth time they have reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup/Europa League – the most of any side
Romelu Lukaku has now scored in nine consecutive appearances in the Europa League; the longest goal-scoring run by a player in UEFA Cup/Europa League history.