(CTN NEWS) – For two decades, Lionel Messi has consistently redefined what we consider extraordinary, but his latest feat surpassed even his own jaw-dropping standards.
In a momentous debut for Inter Miami on Friday night, Messi showcased his brilliance with an awe-inspiring free-kick from just outside the penalty area, securing a thrilling 2-1 victory over Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the League Cup at DRV PNK Stadium.
Speaking to Apple TV after the match, Messi revealed the weight of the moment, saying,
“I knew I had to score. It was the last play of the game. Securing this win was crucial for us, especially in a new tournament. It will undoubtedly boost our confidence as we move forward.”
Messi’s Magical Debut: A Moment of Immense Significance for Inter Miami
Even prior to scoring the goal, every touch Lionel Messi made on the ball was met with a fervent sense of expectation.
And when he effortlessly turned past Cruz Azul defenders in the 67th minute, leaving them trailing in his wake, the crowd erupted in such thunderous cheers that they could have easily drowned out the sound of a small jet departing from the nearby Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
True, there were critics who pointed out that Messi appeared less interested in defensive duties during the game, and Cruz Azul managed to score their equalizing goal while he was on the field. However, none of these critiques carried any weight in the face of Messi’s magic.
“It’s a moment of immense significance for this country,” beamed Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham. “It’s a moment of pride for the league. And it fills us with great pride as well.”
For those who speculated that Messi had come to South Beach for a leisurely swansong in his career, he provided the perfect response.
“We should never be surprised by Messi’s accomplishments because they are a constant feature of his career,” remarked Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Miami’s head coach and Messi’s former coach at both Barcelona and Argentina.
“Choosing to join Miami is not just about his life; it’s a decision for his family. However, he made it clear that he came here to play and win, and he demonstrated that right from his very first game.”
Impressive Start for Miami: Ian Fray’s Injury Concerns and Messi’s Excitement
Miami started off well, effectively handling the early pressure, but their fortune took a turn for the worse when right back Ian Fray suffered a left knee injury without any contact.
This was particularly concerning as Fray had already endured two ACL injuries in his young career, having torn his right ACL in both 2021 and 2022.
In the 44th minute, Miami took the lead for the first time thanks to an impressive play.
Robert Taylor brilliantly controlled a cross-field pass from fellow winger Robbie Robinson, skillfully cutting inside from the left and delivering a powerful low shot from just inside the box, which hit the far post and found its way into the net.
The electrifying atmosphere at the match drew the attention of several sports and entertainment legends, including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and Kim Kardashian.
Even Lionel Messi, who was in the stands, couldn’t contain his excitement.
He jumped from his seat, raised his hands in the air, clapped several times, and broke into a wide smile.
However, Cruz Azul managed to equalize, momentarily threatening to spoil the celebratory mood.
Messi thought he had assisted the potential winning goal in the 87th minute when he set up substitute Josef Martinez for an easy finish, but the goal was disallowed due to Messi being ruled offside in the buildup.
Fortunately, a legal goal came later, securing the victory for Miami. With this win, they have taken a significant step towards the knockout stage of the Leagues Cup, which is set to begin on August 2nd.
Miami’s final group game will be against Atlanta United in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, while Cruz Azul will visit Atlanta five days later.
Messi’s journey with Miami is off to an exciting start, and with such promising performances, he may already be eyeing his first piece of silverware in his new home.
The top three teams in the competition will qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, and Miami seems to be well on their way to achieving that goal.
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