Belgium international Romelu Lukaku has had a disappointing return to Inter in 2022/23, but his goals were decisive in his team’s win against Empoli on Serie A Matchday 31.
The Nerazzurri defeated the Azzurri 3-0 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Sunday thanks to a double from the Belgian in the second half, and he also turned provider, supplying an assist for Lautaro Martinez late into the game.
Lukaku has not had the same influence and presence that he did in his first spell, and without the guidance of Antonio Conte, the 29-year-old has often looked heavy-footed and directionless.
However, with a Champions League semi-final against city rivals AC Milan coming up in May, and qualification for Europe’s premier competition through Serie A at risk, his goals are needed more than ever.
Lukaku demonstrates his scoring prowess against Empoli
Prior to the encounter with Empoli, Lukaku had scored just three goals in 18 Serie A appearances for Inter this season. Although multiple injuries have impacted on his season, he had not made the most of his playing opportunities beforehand.
The 29-year-old opened the scoring three minutes into the second half when the Nerazzurri orchestrated a well-worked team move which the Belgian finished off with his non-preferred right foot.
He added a second goal in the 76th minute when he beat one Azzurri defender, and then smashed a low shot with his left foot that Empoli goalkeeper Samuele Perisan had little hope of saving.
A player that can have a serious lack of confidence, Lukaku certainly needed a performance like this and if he can carry this form into Inter’s remaining matches of the campaign, the Nerazzurri can climb back up the table and also pose a threat in Europe.
Empoli lack stability without Vicario
Guglielmo Vicario is arguably the most underrated goalkeeper in Serie A and his presence in goal as well as impressive reflexes have been missing for Empoli.
The Azzurri shot-stopper has a chest injury and they have only one once in the seven matches that he has been injured. Whether he could have stopped all of the three goals against Inter might have been questionable, but he certainly would have added greater security for the defenders in front of him.
Empoli are now 15th in Serie A with 32 points and they probably would be higher if he was not injured.