Late Lukaku penalty doubles lead to give Inter strong chance

Romelu Lukaku came on as a substitute before scoring a penalty which gave Inter Milan a 2-0 lead, and a great chance of progressing through to the semi-finals beyond the second leg.

Under-fire Simone Inzaghi’s men went ahead through Nicolo Barella and grabbed a potentially decisive second from the spot as they won 2-0 and inflicted a first defeat in 10 games in the competition on the Primeira Liga leaders, who also lost to Porto at the Estadio Da Luz on Friday.

It was the home side who created the first real opening when, after Federico Dimarco had only half dealt with Alejandro Grimaldo’s cross, Rafa Silva fired in a 16th-minute snapshot which goalkeeper Andre Onana did well to block.

Former Inter midfielder Joao Mario dragged a 20th-minute attempt across the face of goal, but the visitors responded with a sustained period of possession and went close when central defender Francesco Acerbi strode forward and smashed a 35-yard drive just over in an increasingly open game.

Benfica returned for the second half in determined mood as they pinned the Serie A outfit deep inside their own half, with full-back Gilberto revelling in the space afforded him down the right.

But it was down his side that Inter struck when Barella dispatched Alessandro Bastoni’s 51st-minute cross with a thumping header – their first attempt on target.

Chiquinho lifted a difficult chance over from Fredrik Aursnes’ lofted pass as the Portuguese club sought a way back into the game, but had keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos not managed to repel Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 66th-minute effort and Denzel Dumfries’ header 12 minutes later, the tie could have been all but beyond them.

There was nothing he could do, however, to deny Lukaku from the penalty spot with eight minutes remaining after referee Michael Oliver had been advised to review Mario’s block from Dumfries’ cross, and the Italians will take a healthy advantage into next Wednesday’s return at the San Siro, thanks in part to Onana’s late save from Goncalo Ramos.

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