Lionel Messi made a dream start to his latest football chapter in America, scoring a last-second winner with a curling free-kick in his debut game for Inter Miami, lifting his new team to a 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul in both teams’ Leagues Cup opener.
Miami, which brought Messi off the bench because he’s only had three full training sessions with the team so far, was outplayed on Friday at times by the Mexican visitors in the match at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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And even the Argentinian superstar who won the World Cup only months ago and captured the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player on seven occasions, had only scattered chances.
But after earning the foul himself about seven yards beyond the penalty area, Messi delivered an excellent, left-footed free kick that beat the defensive wall and goalkeeper Andres Gudino to the top left corner.
INCREDIBLE!!!! 🐐 https://t.co/fEhhXSZRAx
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 22, 2023
“I knew it was the last chance,” Messi said of his free kick, according to ESPN.com. “I just tried like always do and fortunately the goalkeeper couldn’t get the ball.
“It is important for this team to get wins because we are not in a good position in the league. I know this is another tournament, but it will help our morale.”
Robert Taylor also scored for Miami just before halftime to get the Herons off to an excellent start in a three-team group that also includes Atlanta United, part of a competition that includes all 47 teams from MLS and Liga MX.
Former LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna equalised in the 65th minute for Cruz Azul, which led in shots 18-12 overall and eight to six in efforts on target.
Drake Callendar made seven saves for Miami to help them earn all three points, including two very early crucial saves that kept the match level and allowed Taylor to give the Herons the lead.
After Antuna produced an excellent leveller, Messi was caught offside on one apparent equalizer, and striker Josef Martinez was in a similar position on another.
But there was nothing wrong with Messi’s long-distance winner, which bent around the defensive wall in a way former England star turned Miami co-owner David Beckham made famous.
“It’s common for him, you know,” Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said. “It looks absolutely normal, but it’s not … we’re speaking about the GOAT.”
It was a gathering of GOATs at Messi’s debut match: LeBron James and Serena Williams were there – like Messi in football, they’re in the conversation of “greatest of all time” when it comes to the NBA and tennis.
Music legends Gloria and Emilio Estefan showed up, as did Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and Kim Kardashian.