Inter's winning mood marred by on-field spats with teammates
MILAN (AP) — Romelu Lukaku is back among the goalscorers, helping Inter Milan to victory in the Champions League and into second place in Serie A.
But there are still tensions at Inter.
Less than 10 days after Lukaku and Nicolò Barella had a fierce on-field argument, there was another ugly disagreement between Inter teammates during Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Porto in the Champions League.
Inter goalkeeper André Onana and forward Edin Džeko screamed at each other in the first half, with Hakan Çalhanoğlu attempting to calm things down by covering Onana’s mouth. The situation appeared to arise after Onana started protesting with the referee and Džeko intervened.
Onana laughed off the situation after the match, which gave Inter a one-goal lead over Porto heading into the second leg of the round of 16.
“They’re just things linked to the tension of the match, but it all helps to improve the group and the quality of the team,” Onana said. “We’re all experienced players and every one of us has the right to say what they think, him as much as me.
“But we now have to put it behind us. I’m the goalkeeper and I have to do my job. In the end we played very well and if getting annoyed like this we win games, then even better.”
While Onana played well and had a number of fine saves — including a fantastic double stop when it was still 0-0 — Džeko had a below-par performance and reacted angrily when he was substituted in the 58th minute for Lukaku.
“I also used to get angry when I was taken off during these type of matches,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “But it was enough for me to see how he leapt to his feet to celebrate Lukaku’s goal.
“They are things that happen on the field, because of the adrenaline, because of these kind of nights. But we mustn’t forget what Džeko has done for us in these past 18 months. He hasn’t done much, but very much.”
Inzaghi must decide whether to play Lukaku or Džeko up front alongside Lautaro Martínez when Inter travels to Bologna on Sunday in Serie A.
Inter is in second place in Serie A, but could be 18 points behind Napoli when the match starts at Bologna because the league leaders visit Empoli the previous day.
Roma, Milan, Lazio and Atalanta are all within six points of Inter in a tight battle for the Champions League qualifying spots.
Lukaku has scored in back-to-back matches for Inter but that has taken his tally to only four goals because he has struggled with poor form and injury since returning to Italy from Chelsea in the offseason. Džeko has scored 11 goals in all competitions this season.
Lukaku and Barella appear to have made peace after they were seen shouting and swearing at each other during a 0-0 draw at Sampdoria on Feb. 13. Inzaghi took both players off during that match and the club reportedly considered fining them.
But Barella was one of the first to embrace Lukaku after providing the cross for the Belgium forward to score, with four minutes remaining against Porto.
“I’ve always said that he’s the first player I’d pick to go to battle with,” Lukaku said. “I’m happy that he provided the assist, and we need to carry on in this manner.”
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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press