Inter Milan scorer Romelu Lukaku said he understood the reasons for being left out of the starting lineup for Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica but was delighted to contribute off the bench.
The Belgian striker has struggled with injury and form this season and saw the 37-year-old Edin Dzeko preferred to him to lead Inter’s attack for the quarterfinal, first leg tie at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz.
But he came off the bench to tuck away an 82nd minute penalty that ensured Inter’s victory, after Nicolo Barella had headed home in the 51st minute, and a potentially decisive advantage for next week’s return leg at San Siro.
“Yes, yes, I understand the reasons (for being on the bench) because of my previous performances but I just have to look ahead and try to help the team as much as possible,” Lukaku told reporters.
“I’m getting back in shape, I’m giving a lot to the team, but everyone else is doing it too. We have a responsibility to do well for the club, now we need to do well in the league at the weekend to have the right confidence for the second leg.”
Lukaku, 29, said he had concentrated hard on picking his spot for the penalty kick, cutting out the noise in the cavernous stadium.
“You need not listen to other players. I don’t listen to anyone, not even my team mates, I’m just focused on the ball and where I want to put it in.
“We played an intelligent game. We also had other opportunities to score three or four goals but against a team like this a 2-0 win is a good result. Now we have to try to do well in the league too, which is important,” he said.
Inter, who has not won in six matches coming into Tuesday’s tie, next faces Monza at home in Serie A on Saturday before the second leg next Wednesday. It sits fifth in the standings, one point behind AC Milan in the race for Champions league spots.
“Serie A is also important. We are still in a good situation in the Coppa Italia. We have to do well in all three competitions,” Lukaku added.
Inter hosts Juventus in a Coppa Italia semifinal, return leg on April 26 having drawn the first leg 1-1 earlier this month.