Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates Image credit: Getty Images
Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates Image credit: Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to score a late winner as Inter overcame a resilient Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash at San Siro.

Porto looked like they would frustrate the Serie A side but their task grew more difficult when Otavio was sent off and eventually Inter’s pressure paid when Lukaku – a second-half substitute – struck with four minutes remaining.

With both teams coming into this game in fine form, there had been considerable excitement ahead of kick-off, but it proved a cagey affair.

Inter, who have lost just once in 13 games, had the first chance when Lautaro Martinez peeled free at the far post but could only head Federico Dimarco’s cross over.

Targeting a 10th straight win, Porto were slow to start but almost broke the deadlock when Andre Onana pulled off a fine save with his feet to keep out Marko Gruijic’s powerful effort, and from the rebound Galeno failed to hit the target.

The hosts thought they had a strong case for a penalty when Matteo Darmian went down inside the box under pressure from Galeno, but there was nothing doing. On the stroke of half-time, Alessandro Bastoni’s glancing header forced a fine reaction save from Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa.

Barella fired agonisingly wide after the restart, and, at the opposite end, Inter goalkeeper Onana pulled off a double save to deny Taremi and then Zaidu.

With time running out, the Nerazzurri pushed for a winner, introducing Lukaku from the bench and the Belgium international had an immediate impact, setting up a chance for Barella who shot just over.

Porto’s task grew more difficult when midfielder Otavio was sent off for a second bookable offence and the visitors would pay a heavy price when eventually Inter found a way through courtesy of Lukaku’s late goal. After hitting the post from Denzel Dumfries’ cross, he remained composed to slot in the rebound to ensure Inter take a slender lead to Portugal for the second leg on March 14.