LuLa back with goals as Inter Milan prepares to face Porto

MILAN (AP) — The LuLa attack is back for Inter Milan, just in time.

Both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez scored for Inter in a 3-1 win over Udinese in Serie A, four days before the team faces Porto on Wednesday in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League.

That was the first time both players had scored in the same match since the final game of the 2020-21 season — also against Udinese. Those goals that season drove Inter to the title and earned the partnership the nickname LuLa, from the first letters of Lukaku’s surname and Martínez’s first name.

Martínez scored 17 league goals in that title-winning season, while Lukaku had 24. And the duo frequently set up each other’s goals.

Lukaku’s scoring streak earned him a big-money move to Chelsea, only to return to Inter on loan the following year. But the Belgium forward has seemed a shadow of his former self this season as he struggled with poor form and injury. The goal against Udinese on Saturday was his first league goal since August. His only other goal this season had come in a Champions League match in October, against Viktoria Plzen.

Lukaku almost didn’t break his drought as his first attempt at a penalty was weak and easily saved by Udinese goalkeeper Marco Silvestri. But it had to be retaken for encroachment and the Inter forward drove his second attempt home much more powerfully.

“Romelu is improving on a daily basis, training session after training session, game after game,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “We have real confidence in him.

“He’s giving all that he can and his condition is already good, but he can still make strides forward. He had an injury that caused him problems for four months, so he’ll only improve the more he plays.”

There have been no such concerns about Martínez, who helped Argentina win the World Cup in December. He has scored eight goals in 11 matches in all competitions since the Italian league resumed in January. He is second in the Serie A scoring chart, with 13 goals.

“He always gives his all and is one of our leaders,” Inzaghi said. “He needs to continue to work like he’s doing because he’s been excellent since returning from the World Cup.”

Lukaku and Martínez will have to be good to get past a strong Porto defense that has only let in two goals in its 11 matches this year.

Inter and Inzaghi faltered at the same stage last season, eliminated by Liverpool 2-1 on aggregate, despite an impressive 1-0 win at Anfield. Porto failed to make it past the group stage last season but reached the quarterfinals the year before, losing to eventual champion Chelsea. The team got past Juventus in that season’s round of 16.

“We’re facing a team of quality that we respect a lot because it almost always reaches the round of 16 and sometimes goes further,” said Inzaghi, who was teammates with Porto coach Sérgio Conceição at Lazio during their playing days. “It’s done well against Italian teams in the past and we want to reverse that trend.”


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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press