Inter Milan reached their first Champions League final for 13 years as Lautaro Martinez’s sole goal of the match gave them a 3-0 aggregate win against AC Milan on Tuesday.
Inter will undoubtedly be the underdogs against either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the final in Istanbul on June 10, but the way they managed both legs of this all-Milan tie suggests they will be hard to beat.
The key moment of the night at the San Siro came when Martinez exchanged passes with substitute Romelu Lukaku and drilled a shot from inside the penalty area that Milan keeper Mike Maignan allowed in at his near post.
That goal effectively killed off the tie.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Milan had pushed hard in the first half, spearheaded by Rafael Leao who shot across the goal and past the post with one of his side’s best chances.
Maignan then superbly dropped to his knees to collect Edin Dzeko’s glancing header from Hakan Calhanoglu’s pacy free-kick.
Lukaku’s introduction in the second half proved the spark that Inter needed to extend their lead.
Absent for much of the season with injuries and with a damaged reputation following a disastrous World Cup with Belgium, Lukaku has slowly worked his way back to his best.
The forward on loan from Chelsea immediately caused problems in the Milan defense and created Martinez’s goal to guarantee their place in their first Champions League final since the last time they won European club football’s biggest prize under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
“Tutti a Istanbul,” the joyous Inter fans sang.
Facing Simone Inzaghi’s men will be either Manchester City or record 14-time winners Real Madrid, with that semifinal finely poised at 1-1 ahead of Wednesday’s decider at City’s Etihad Stadium.