Lukaku’s penalty puts Inter Milan on course for Champions League semi-finals

Romelu Lukaku scored an 82nd-minute penalty as Inter Milan put themselves in a strong position to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League after a deserved win away to Benfica.

Barella and Lukaku lead Inter Milan to victory over Benfica

Inter Milan struck in the second half through Nico Barella and Romelu Lukaku for a 2-0 win at Benfica in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday which put them on course for a first last-four appearance since they won the trophy in 2010.

Barella headed home firmly at the back post in the 51st minute, rising unchallenged to get on the end of a superb cross from centre back Alessandro Bastoni, who was storming up the left side and delivered a pinpoint ball.

Substitute Lukaku then converted an 82nd-minute penalty after VAR referred a handball by Benfica skipper Joao Mario for review by English referee Michael Oliver, who gave the spot kick after looking at the video monitor on the side of the pitch.

The two goals hand Inter a major advantage for the return leg at San Siro next Wednesday, where they will be heavily fancied to progress to an all-Italian semi-final against either neighbours AC Milan or Napoli.

Defensive masterclass sees Inter Milan defeat Benfica

Inter Milan put on a defensive masterclass in Lisbon as they defeated Benfica 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Benfica struggled to dictate play in front of their own fans as Inter produced a solid performance. Rafa Silva was denied by Andre Onana’s first-half save before Inter’s Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries produced a crucial block from close range as Benfica pushed for an equaliser.

The Italian visitors wrapped up a solid win when substitute Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, scored from the spot after former Inter player Joao Mario handled. Premier League referee Michael Oliver awarded the penalty after watching the incident on the pitchside monitor, with replays showing the ball struck the side of Mario’s head before hitting his hand.

Inter, who beat Benfica’s domestic rivals Porto in the previous round with a stoic defensive performance away in the second leg, were surprisingly adventurous at the start on their return to Portugal and dominated the early skirmishes.

The hosts might have equalised five minutes after Barella scored but Dumfries got in the way during a goalmouth melee as Benfica’s strikers looked to sweep home a cross from Mario that caused chaos.

Simone Inzaghi’s side will fancy their chances of finishing the job in front of their own fans in the return leg on 19 April (20:00 BST).

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