KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Internazionale will face Sevilla in Friday’s heavyweight final of the UEFA Europa League.
The Italian club, three times winners of the Europa League’s predecessor tournaments, cruised onward with a crushing 5-0 defeat of Ukraine’s Shakhtar in Dusseldorf. They led 1-0 at half-time then ran away with the game in the second half.
They will have a day less to prepare for the final than five-times winners Sevilla who defeated Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday.
Lautaro Martinez, coveted by many other leading European clubs, struck twice including the first goal while Romelu Lukaku, with a double of his own, extended his run of scoring in his last 10 matches in the competition.
This is Inter’s first appearance in a European final since winning the Champions League and Italian double under Jose Mourinho in 2010 since when they have undergone massive changes on and off the pitch.
Shakhtar, the Ukraine club now based in Lviv after abandoning Donetsk following the military disruption, had won the previously-entitled UEFA Cup in 2009 but let themselves down.
Argentinian 22-year-old Martinez headed Nicolo Barella’s cross for the opening goal after a mistake by goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov. Shakhtar responded but met stern defensive resistance. The nearest they came to an equaliser was a shot from Brazilian Marcos Antonio which skimmed the bar.
Inter coach Antonio Conte urged his players at half-time to step up the rythm.
They enjoyed a fortunate escape when Junior Moraes popped a ‘free’ header into the arms of keeper Samir Handanovic but capitalised by racing back on the counter-attack and stretching their lead. Danilo D’Ambrosio was the scorer with a header to Marcelo Brozovic’s corner.
Martinez struck his second goal after 74 minutes with a low drive from 20 yards before Lukaku wrapped up victory with goals in both the 78th and 83rd minutes
Lukaku and Martínez thus became the first duo to score 20-plus goals each in a single season for Inter since Adriano and Obafemi Martins in 2004-05.
Their double act condemned Shakhtar to their heaviest European defeat since a 6-0 defeat by Manchester City in the Champions League in November 2018.
The Belgium and former Manchester United centre-forward also became the first Inter player to reach the 50-plus appearances in a single season since Samuel Eto’o (53) and Javier Zanetti (52) in 2010-11.