He showed little signs of frustration, got a warm reception from fans and was a presence that worried Tottenham at the back… so, is the Romelu Lukaku feud firmly under the bridge?
- Romelu Lukaku was put into Chelsea’s team to face Tottenham on Wednesday
- The Belgian striker had been dropped for the match vs Liverpool at the weekend
- He had upset fans and management for an authorised interview to Sky in Italy
- Lukaku’s body language was fine and he got a warm reception from supporters
Romelu Lukaku began on the road to redemption on Wednesday night, returning to the Chelsea starting XI after he was dropped for Sunday’s draw against Liverpool amid the fall-out from his now infamous and unauthorised interview with Italian TV.
Here, Sportsmail assesses Lukaku’s return to the team just days after he confessed to being unhappy under head coach Thomas Tuchel.
If Lukaku’s moping, then he’s disguising it well.
From inside the opening 20 seconds, his intention to make amends was clear as he rampaged down the left only to misplace his pass into Kai Havertz. Lukaku appeared to blame Havertz for making the wrong run – but if Spurs were hoping the Belgian would be sulking after the episode that has engulfed Chelsea in recent days then they were out of luck.
Lukaku was among the first over to Havertz to congratulate the German for scoring the opener, too. Chelsea’s new-look 4-2-2-2 system meant he cut an isolated figure up front for much of this encounter. But if the lack of service was irking him, he showed little sign of his frustration. Probably best given the last few days.
Romelu Lukaku (right) was restored to Chelsea’s team in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night
The Belgian (second right) was quick to celebrate with team-mates after two first-half goals
You’d have forgiven Lukaku for fearing the worst as he emerged to warm-up.
His controversial interview has not gone down well with sections of the Blues support.
Indeed, Tuchel warned the striker he could face a supporter backlash on Wednesday night. But he needn’t have worried.
Lukaku was afforded a warm reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful. No rapturous ovation, granted. But no booing either, and with the situation still raw that’s probably the best he could have hoped for.
Chelsea fans gave him a warm reception and so he need not have worried about being booed
It may take a while for Lukaku to complete his bridge building exercise. In any case, if there is any lingering ill-feeling towards Lukaku from his manager then Thomas Tuchel is doing an excellent job of putting us all off the scent.
Prior to kick-off the Chelsea boss said: ‘He is our player, he is on the pitch today.
‘Yes for us, beginning of new chapter, we can listen to the interview 100 times, it will not get better but we have enough reasons to move on, we have to protect him.
‘He expresses that very clearly [that he owes his team-mates].’
Tuchel certainly doesn’t sound like someone holding a grudge.
The former Man United striker issued a grovelling apology to Chelsea fans earlier this week
Lukaku had just four touches inside the opening 32 minutes, the lowest of any player on the pitch. Even Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris had eight by that point.
It was hardly the sort of impression he’d have wanted on his return to the team. Yet, he still made a tangible contribution to Chelsea’s 2-0 half-time lead – his sheer persistence and power winning the free-kick that led to Ben Davies’ comical own goal.
One of his early second-half touches set-up Hakim Ziyech for a clear goalscoring opportunity, only for the Moroccan to fluff his lines – much to Lukaku’s frustration.
So it was very much a case of quality over quantity. Tottenham boss Antonio Conte, having worked with Lukaku at Inter Milan last season, will know all about that, of course.
He cut an isolated figure in a 4-2-2-2 system but he did cause concern for Tottenham’s defence
In terms of substance, this wasn’t a Lukaku performance that will necessarily live long in the memory. But for a 41st-minute header he sent narrowly wide he didn’t have any clear opportunities.
But you couldn’t fault his effort and for the 28-year-old this appearance will come as a weight off his shoulders.
All eyes were on Lukaku on Wednesday night, but not for the right reasons.
With his return now out of the way, Lukaku will hope the entire affair can be put behind him – or at least brushed under the carpet.
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