By Nacho Garcia |
Miami (USA) (EFE).- Leo Messi made his debut in the second half and led Inter Miami’s 1-2 win against Cruz Azul this Friday with an impressive free-kick goal, his trademark, in the 94th minute.
It was the dream debut for the Argentine, supported by his new fans, surrounded by celebrities and remembering that despite the inactivity he continues to be an absolutely differential player.
Along with him, his teammate and friend Sergio Busquets also made his Miami debut, the only one who knew how to find him with guarantees on the pitch.
For this first day of the Leagues Cup, the new tournament in which all the MLS and Liga MX teams compete, coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino decided that neither Messi nor Busquets would be out of the game, and Inter Miami, until that magnificent final flash by the Argentine, suffered from the same problems that it had already shown for the rest of the season: a worrying defensive fragility that originates in the very center of the field.
An unsettling first half for Miami
The Argentine Carlos Rotondi was the first to put the Inter Miami defense on alert with an attack from the left for a center that found no response.
She was not the only one. The midfield of the Florida team left many spaces that the Mexicans knew how to take advantage of to reach the area with some clarity. In fact, Drake Callender had to show off a couple of times in the first five minutes with Brazilian Moisés Vieira lamenting the clearest.
The Ecuadorian Leonardo Campana gave the first warning for those in pink and the Mexican Andrés Gudiño grew between the sticks, but this time it did not mean a change of direction in the match because, just a few seconds later, Rotondi crashed the ball to the post and the Colombian Diber Cambindo missed the rebound almost at will.
In the 24th minute, Ian Fray’s left knee, totally fortuitously, twisted and led to gestures of enormous pain from the Jamaican, forcing him to leave the match.
After the final triumph, Messi, in statements at the foot of the field, dedicated the victory to his probably seriously injured teammate.
Nor could the other right-back, Cruz Azul’s, Rodrigo Huescas, who was also injured alone, be able to continue. He was replaced by the Paraguayan Juan Escobar.
These stoppages benefited Inter Miami, which in the last stretch of the first part managed to control the game to a certain extent. They combined better and that was how Finn Robert Taylor’s goal came in minute 44. With a magnificent overflow from the left wing to shoot at the long post with his right foot and score despite Gudiño’s immense stretch.
Messi’s worried face on the bench changed with the goal, celebrating it along with the rest of his substitute teammates. Without taking over the reins of the game, his team paved the way for his debut in the pink shirt.
Messi and Busquets change the game
Messi and Busquets entered the field of play in the 53rd minute and it didn’t take long for them to awaken the first spirits of the stands in a great play that took the Argentine combining with his teammates to the end line.
The game was different in terms of the environment and football. The spectators remained standing for many minutes and Messi took the lead, starting by putting on the captain’s armband from his first minute on the pitch.
A stopped ball executed by Messi enabled the Venezuelan Josef Martínez inside the area, who also entered the exchange with the two former Barça players. The forward of the red wine crashed it against the goalkeeper.
The Colombian Kevin Castaño entered in an interesting tactical movement by Cruz Azul and the result was immediate, with the equalizer for the Mexicans in the 64th minute. Uriel Antuna received the ball inside the area and, with a quick turn and cross shot, beat Callender before the gaze and passivity of the local defense.
Inter Miami continued playing at the pace set by Messi, again with a ball served deep to Martínez, which he was unable to specify.
The ten also looked for the shot from outside the area, but hit the back of the Mexican Carlos Salcedo. The Cement Machine gained confidence and began to attack more and better, returning Inter Miami to the ghosts of the first half.
Messi’s associations were very different if he did it with Busquets or with another teammate.
Messi’s dream debut at Inter Miami
That connection of La Masía had a clear opportunity when the midfielder gave him the ball high and the Argentine fell down and claimed a penalty, but it was not awarded.
In 85 Messi had it again, again with a gift from Busquets that left him alone. The Mexican Rafa Guerrero took the ball from him when he was already shooting on goal.
Messi and Martínez combined and had two great actions, one of them even got into the goal, but both were canceled for offside.
Already in added time, the Argentine star received a ball on the edge of the area and was clearly knocked down. He had the golden opportunity to shine from set pieces and that’s how it was, with a masterful execution from the genius of Rosario that slipped through the entire squad.
His first goal with Inter Miami came full of epic and delivered the victory to his club on the buzzer.
Messi celebrated in style before a stadium that shouted and celebrated, with a bench that jumped onto the pitch to join his new idol and later melting into a hug with his family, present in the front row next to the bench.
No one wanted to miss Messi’s debut with Inter Miami, and thus athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady or Serena Williams and celebrities and artists like Becky G, Kim Kardashian or Marc Anthony could be seen.
1. Blue Cross: Gudino; Huescas (Escobar, m.30), Warrior, Salcedo, Rivero; Owners, Rodriguez (Taboo, m.78); Antuna, Moses (Lotti, m.78), Round; Changing (Chestnut, m.64).
2. Inter Miami: Callenderi; Fray (Allen, m.30), Kryvtsov, Miller, Yedlin; Ruiz (Busquets, m.53), Arroyo, Cremaschi (Messi, m.53); Taylor, Bell (Bell, m.53) and Robinson.
Goals: 0-1, 44 minutes: Robert Taylor. 2-0, m.65: Uriel Antuna. 1-2, m.94: Leo Messi.
Referee: Hector Martinez (El Salvador). He admonished Dixon Arroyo (m.38) and Dueñas (m.92).
Incidents: First day of the Leagues Cup. Match played at the DRV PNK Stadium in front of 20,000 spectators.