Romelu Lukaku marked his second debut with a goal after as Inter Milan began their campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lecce.

Denzel Dumfries bundled in a dramatic 95th-minute winner as Inter launched their 2022/23 Serie A campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 win over newly-promoted Lecce, with Romelu Lukaku also getting on the scoresheet on his return. Having seen reigning champions AC Milan thrash Udinese in their season opener earlier on Saturday, Inter made sure they matched their city rivals’ exploits, particularly in the opening exchanges.

The 2021/22 Coppa Italia winners opened the scoring 82 seconds in, when loan returnee Romelu Lukaku wasted little time in getting on the scoresheet and nodded home Matteo Darmian’s smart knock-down from point-blank range.

Inter controlled the lion’s share of the possession and appeared to be in good stead to extend their advantage, but the entire theme of the game changed two minutes into the second period when Assan Ceesay singlehandedly made a mockery of Inter’s defence by tucking home his left-foot finish low and hard across Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to round off a slick counter-attack.

There were plenty of chances for Inter to retake the lead with Lautaro Martinez, Lukaku, Dumfries, and Dzeko all coming close, and Lecce also threatened on the counter. But the 1-1 score would hold until the dying embers of the game when a corner found Martinez’s head, who flicked it on for Dumfries to force home at the back post to break Lecce’s hearts.

It was by no means a faultless showing from the Nerazzurri, yet their supporters can be hopeful going into the new season of what is expected to be another exciting Scudetto race. A win is a win, and there were encouraging signs from some of the summer signings. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Simone Inzaghi’s men after a narrow win over newly-promoted Lecce at Stadio Via del Mare.

Samir Handanovic: 7/10

Handanovic was surprisingly busy in between the sticks for Inter on an opening day as the hosts tested the veteran goalkeeper with four shots on target. He saw a couple of dangerous attempts sail over his bar; got down well to deny Gabriel Strefezza’s right-footed shot from the left side of the box.

The Slovenian then produced an excellent stop to deny Kristijan Bistrović’s free-kick effort before denying the midfielder once again later in the game. Made a couple of more smart saves to deny the hosts a surprising lead. All in all, the Slovenian shot-stopper was made to work hard all game with Lecce creating good chances on turnovers and set-piece situations.

Milan Skriniar: 6.5/10

As a leader in that backline along with Stefan de Vrij, Skriniar needs to control the play better. He was caught ball watching for Lecce’s equaliser when Ceesay made Inter’s backline look foolish by expertly netting from a tight angle in the 48th minute. As the game went on, he stuck to it and looked more and more confident.

Stefan de Vrij: 7/10

The Dutchman was one of the better players for Inter Milan on the day. He started off the game very well and was thinking one step ahead, as reflected by a match-high four interceptions. He was also precise in possession and won most of his ground and aerial duels (9/12).

Federico Dimarco: 7.5/10

Dimarco was an asset when Inter looked to attack the ball, with his quality in crossing evident. He was notably involved in the first goal with a superb cross that was deflected into Lukaku’s path by Darmian and almost got an assist when Dumfries hit the woodwork from his cross. He also unleashed a fierce volley to draw a sharp save from Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Matteo Darmian: 7.5/10

Another impressive performance from the Italian veteran, who was preferred ahead of Denzel Dumfries at right wing-back and did not disappoint. He was defensively astute and finished with more tackles than anyone on the pitch (three) while winning seven of his nine contested ground duels.

While he was not as much of an attacking threat as Dumfries, he did register an assist for the opener and made a few intelligent runs at the back post. Darmian eventually made way for Dumfries in the 66th minute.

Nicolo Barella: 7/10

A solid, all-action display from Barella, who stood out in an underperforming midfield on the day. The Italian international provided defensive support, wrestling back possession in midfield and then making driving runs forward while also testing the opposition goalkeeper with a couple of shots at goal.

Marcelo Brozovic: 6/10

The orchestrator in the middle of the park for Inter Milan, Brozovic, had an average game against Lecce without really standing out. He kept things in check in the middle of the park, but his impact waned as the game wore on. He was taken off early in the second half.

Hakan Çalhanoglu: 5/10

Usually the chief creator for the visitors, Calhanoglu was off colour against Lecce and had a stinker of a game, as he failed to control proceedings in the midfield. He started strongly, testing Falcone with a dipping strike, but that was his only major contribution to the game, as he struggled to create anything of note.

Robin Gosens: 5/10

It was another below-par performance from Gosens, which is quite a worrying sign for Inter. Offensively, he was not involved at all, with no shots on target, zero key passes, and only one successful dribble. Defensively, he found it difficult to deal with Federico Di Francesco’s presence and did not produce a defensive action during his time on the pitch. Subbed off around the hour mark.

Romelu Lukaku: 8/10

Lukaku struck inside the first minute of his second bow to send Inter supporters into euphoria. The Belgian international knows perfectly well that while he left, city-rivals AC Milan won the Scudetto and has already stated that his priority will be to bring the league title back to the other side of the river.

Lukaku he wasted no time to lay down the marker, heading home from Darmian’s knock-back. He also had the chance to win the game by himself when his deflected strike blazed over late on. While he did lack sharpness and was not at his best, his goal was befitting of the occasion. Inter fans are now dreaming again as the magic duo of Lukaku and Martinez is back together.

Lautaro Martínez: 7/10

Martinez put forth an excellent showing, full of running, liveliness, and creativity. He took his chances well and pulled the strings while connecting plays in between the opposition defence and midfield lines. He missed a golden chance from Bastoni’s cross that he would have buried on any other day, but it was his header across the line that resulted in the decisive second goal.

SUBSTITUTES

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 6/10

With Inter Milan failing to carve open the Lecce defence, Inzaghi threw Mkhitaryan on for his debut appearance. However, the former AS Roma playmaker made little impression in his 33 minutes on the pitch.

Alessandro Bastoni: 6/10

Bastoni replaced Gosens around the hour mark and slotted in as the left-sided centre-back. His quality on the ball was on show as he pinged in a couple of lovely long balls into the opposition box from deep areas.

Edin Dzeko: 6/10

While Lukaku and Martinez were already on the pitch, Inzaghi sent Dzeko in desperation for a goal. The Bosnian striker added another aerial presence in the final third to create chaos in the opposition defence, which eventually resulted in Inter retaking the lead.

Denzel Dumfries: 8/10

Dumfries proved to be a solid attacking outlet from the right flank as he caused Lecce’s defence all sorts of problems. He came agonisingly close when he headed against the inside of the post with 20 minutes remaining on the clock. He also squared a dangerous cross for Dzeko before finding himself in the right place at the right time to tap in a last-gasp winner to earn Inter all three points.

Joaquin Correa: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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