Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat Al Hilal 1-0 to qualify for the Club World Cup final.
The Blues, who are without manager Thomas Tuchel due to his Covid-19 status, have made it back to the Club World Cup final for the first time since 2012 thanks to a poacher’s finish from under-fire Lukaku.
The goal was just Lukaku’s second of 2022 after he scored in the Blues’ 5-1 win over Chesterfield in the FA Cup third round. That game was a month ago, during which time Lukaku has played five times without scoring.
After a bright start to the season where he scored on his debut against Arsenal and bagged a brace in his third appearance vs. Aston Villa, Lukaku has struggled since then, including a very public falling out with manager Thomas Tuchel after a video emerged where he appeared to suggest he only moved to Chelsea as a back-up option.
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Regardless, the Belgian is now back in the side, leading the line, and against Al Hilal he showed his worth with the only strike on the night. A true example of what goalscoring instinct gets you.
A cross into the area caused a bit of panic among the sturdy Al Hilal defence and the ball was accidentally knocked down into a space where Lukaku had moved, almost as though he was anticipating the mistake.
Well, the ball fell his way and he showed no hesitation, sweeping it home first-time with his weaker foot. His first goal in a month, a crucial finish that Chelsea will be hoping inspires the Belgian to greater levels of performance, most especially in this weekend’s final against Palmeiras where Lukaku can help banish the ghosts of 2012.
Even today, Lukaku played well. The Belgian was a solid reference for the Blues at the head of their team. He clearly wasn’t fully fit as he struggled with his touch and didn’t have breakaway speed to get beyond the defence. But even so, he kept on going.
When a striker is struggling as Lukaku is now, you expect to see their head drop, you expect to see bad decisions, but there was none of that from the Belgian against Al Hilal. Sure, he wasn’t in the best form and failed to punish inferior defenders, but he played a smart game.
Thomas Tuchel has now reached the final of every competition Chelsea have entered since he took charge of the club:
◉ FA Cup
◉ EFL Cup
◉ Super Cup
◉ Club World Cup
It only took him 379 days to complete the set. 😅 pic.twitter.com/lJQQLP8c7R
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 9, 2022
Lukaku always offered himself as an option, always had his head up, looking for and linking with his team-mates. He kept moves flowing, took shots when appropriate, and made the most of the frankly mediocre service he got.
Does he need to get fitter? And sharper? Absolutely. But the idea of Romelu Lukaku being in crisis is overblown. As he showed against Al Hilal, even on a bad day he’s still more than most teams can handle.