Romelu Lukaku thanked Inter’s supporters and fitness staff after ending his long wait for a goal from open play in Serie A with a double in Sunday’s 3-0 victory at Empoli.
The Belgium striker opened the scoring early in the second half at Stadio Carlo Castellani with a precise finish past Samuele Perisan and doubled his tally with an angled drive.
Those were Lukaku’s fourth and fifth league goals of the season, and his first from open play since netting against Lecce on the opening weekend, some 253 days ago.
Lukaku, who also played in substitute Lautaro Martinez to round off the scoring in a routine win, is glad he can start repaying the support of those around him during a tough time.
“We must thank the fans – they give faith to the players to do better,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “This has been a complicated season and we thank the fans for their support.
“I’m quicker in the change of pace and we are doing great work with the fitness staff. My previous injury was the most serious of my career, one that had never happened before.”
Lukaku, who has scored 39 per cent of Inter’s goals in all competitions (7/18) since the start of February, added: “I am getting more confident and want to keep helping the team.”
The Chelsea loanee was recalled to the starting line-up as Simone Inzaghi rotated his side between facing Benfica in the Champions League and Juventus in the Coppa Italia.
After overcoming Benfica to set up a showdown with Milan, focus now turns to the Coppa Italia semi-final with Juve, which is poised at 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s second leg.
Inzaghi has a big selection call to make in attack after Lukaku was cleared to play against Juve with his first-leg red card rescinded, but it is a headache he welcomes.
“It’s a problem I want to have in every area,” Inzaghi told DAZN. “I’m happy to have Lukaku available and we hope, with the exception of [Milan] Skriniar, everyone will be ready.
“We know how much [Lukaku] has suffered – unfortunately these things happen. He’s working well and it’s nice for a coach to have an abundance of problems like this.”
Inter may be impressing in cup competitions, but they have struggled in the league of late, with Sunday’s win snapping a five-game run without a victory since early March.
It is the first time Inter have won by a three-goal margin since defeating Bologna 6-1 in November, and they kept a clean sheet away from home for the first time in nine games.
While happy with the performance of his side against lowly Empoli, Inzaghi is not happy with the quick turnaround in games in what is an intense period of the campaign.
“We can’t think further than our next match, which is just 72 hours away,” Inzaghi said. “The calendar is insane because we play a lot. However, we can’t have any excuses.
“This was the response we needed today. Players who haven’t played for a while did well, though I never had any doubts over that.
“Now we have the Coppa Italia semi-final and we want to give our all in that game.”
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