Hakim Ziyech has praised Romelu Lukaku’s performance in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham and says Chelsea’s players rallied around the under-fire striker.
The Belgian was axed from the west Londoners’ squad for the weekend’s Premier League clash with Liverpool after giving an interview to Sky Italia in which he said he was not happy with his situation at Chelsea.
Lukaku also criticised manager Thomas Tuchel for playing a ‘different formation’ and said he wanted to return to old club Inter Milan while he is still in the prime of his career.
Tuchel said the situation became ‘too noisy’ so left Lukaku out of the matchday squad for Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool, before the 28-year-old met with the club and then issued an official apology to supporters via an interview with Chelsea TV.
He returned to the squad on Wednesday for the semi-final first-leg clash with Spurs, leading the line from the start as the Blues secured a 2-0 win, and Tuchel now feels a line has been drawn under the incident.
Ziyech and Lukaku’s teammates appear to feel the same way, with the former Ajax man playing down the fallout from the forward’s controversial interview and revealing that the squad all supported Lukaku during a difficult few days.
Asked about how the players treated Lukaku following the interview, Ziyech told Viasport: ‘The only thing we can do is support him and make him not think about other things, just about the game – and I think that’s what we did the last couple of days.
‘Like I said, that’s why we’re teammates, to support each other, and that’s what we did.
‘And I think even he was really sharp today and had a good performance.’
Tuchel was pleased with the response he saw from Lukaku against Spurs, saying after the game: ‘I’m happy with the performance, I liked it.
‘He was strong, he was involved, he showed huge commitment in our defensive work which was important, and he was dangerous, always used his body well and was always involved in dangerous situations.
‘I expected it because Romelu can handle pressure and adversity. He seemed to be relaxed after a decision was made and after we finished talks and he knew what was going on, I felt him relax enough to have a performance like this.’
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