MÖNCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) — Inter Milan got the win it needed to stay in the Champions League but only after surviving a crucial video review.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-2 on Tuesday to avoid being eliminated in the group stage for the third year in a row. The three points were only secure after VAR denied what would have been a hat-trick goal for Gladbach’s Alassane Pléa.
Inter took an early lead through Matteo Darmian before Gladbach leveled with the last act of the first half thanks to Pléa’s header. Lukaku put Inter back in control when he powered through the Gladbach defense to score in the 64th and 73rd minutes.
Pléa scored a second off Marcus Thuram’s pass to give Gladbach hope of a comeback and briefly thought he’d leveled with a hat trick. But the third goal was ruled out after a lengthy video review determined that the offside Gladbach forward Breel Embolo had distracted the goalkeeper.
Gladbach players rushed over to remonstrate with the referee after the final whistle and midfielder Christoph Kramer threw a handful of dirt across the field in frustration as Inter coach Antonio Conte roared in delight on the sideline.
Gladbach stays top of the exceptionally tight Group B, which continued its run of surprise results earlier Tuesday when Shakhtar Donetsk beat Real Madrid 2-0. A draw at Madrid in the final round next week will be enough to see Gladbach through to the knockout stage for the first time in the Champions League era.
Despite his annoyance, Kramer said Gladbach’s season remains a success so far.
“At the start of the groups, if you’d had offered us being top of the group with one game to spare and fate in our own hands, we’d have all signed the dotted line,” he said.
Inter will advance with a win over Shakhtar next week unless Gladbach and Madrid draw in the other game. The Italian club hasn’t reached the knockout stage since the 2011-12 season and finished third in its group in each of the last two seasons.
Gladbach seemed content to sit deep in the early stages and hold Inter at bay. That swiftly proved counterproductive as the deep defense failed to track Inter players’ runs.
After a lucky escape for Gladbach, when defender Tony Jantschke stretched to block two Lautaro Martínez shots despite being on the ground, Inter took the lead. Darmian overlapped the defense on the right flank and shot past goalkeeper Yann Sommer at the near post.
Going a goal down spurred the German team to life and Gladbach began to put pressure on Inter, though Martínez again had a shot saved at the other end. Winger Valentino Lazaro, who is an Inter player on loan at Gladbach, crossed from the right flank and Pléa met the ball with a bouncing header at the far post immediately before the interval.
Lukaku showed his power and awareness with two goals to change the game. For the first, Marcelo Brozovic won the ball in midfield and played in Lukaku, who held off Denis Zakaria with ease before scoring low past Sommer. Nine minutes later, Lukaku was left unmarked and had plenty of time to score off a pass from substitute Achraf Hakimi.
That was Lukaku’s fourth goal against Gladbach in the Champions League this season after the Belgian scored both goals in a 2-2 draw in Italy.
“Maybe we are not a great team yet but we are growing. Obviously when you are leading 3-1 you have to avoid the risks we had tonight and kill the game when you have the chance to,” Lukaku said.
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