Lionel Messi leads Inter Miami into their first-ever final with another STUNNING goal in 4-1 League Cup win over Philadelphia Union
Lionel Messi scored a stunning 35-yard strike to lead Inter Miami to the League Cup final with a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
Miami got off to a flying start with Messi’s strike partner Josef Martinez scoring in just the third minute, latching onto a long ball and tucking into the far corner.
It was a dream start for Miami in one of the toughest games, on paper, the team has had faces since Messi arrived a month ago against last season’s MLS runners-up. .
This time, there was no David Beckham, a Miami co-owner, watching in the stands in Philadelphia, and his wife Antonela was not present for the game on the road. The Messis and the Beckhams were recently inadvertently caught up in an incident outside a Miami nightclub – a restaurant claimed security beat him because they believed he was trying to photograph the Miami star.
Messi and the Miami squad were booed as they headed onto the pitch for Tuesday night’s game. But it made no difference – the World Cup winner showed exactly why there was so much excitement surrounding his presence here just 20 minutes into the game.
Picking up a ball thrown his way by Martinez, Messi stepped forward and, recognizing he was about to be closed down, made the most of the space around him by unleashing a sumptuous left-footed strike at 35 meters.
The ball stayed low and deflected past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, nestling in the corner and leaving what had been a rowdy crowd at Subaru Park stunned into silence.
There was more to come before half-time – Jordi Alba completed a fabulous sweeping move for his first goal in Miami colours, crossing one on one and beating Blake with the composure of a striker like Messi or Martinez .
Union coach Jim Curtin made it clear to his team not to respect Messi, Alba and Sergio Busquets at half-time. He also made two changes, bringing in Jack McGlynn and Mikael Uhre for Leon Flach and Damion Lowe.
Union attacked Miami and had some success. Drake Callendar made an exceptional save to counter Chris Donovan’s header and Union then salvaged one in the 73rd minute through substitute Alejandro Bedoya.
He felt, at that point, the momentum was with Union and with 15 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, a second goal could have made him nervous for Miami.
But instead, David Ruiz made the game safe for Miami with a smart low finish in the 84th minute to quell any fears of a Union comeback.
“We got to the final and we got there,” Messi said on Instagram after the game. “We are still on the last leg.”
There are lessons for Miami to learn ahead of the final – a more ruthless team might have made the second half harder for them, but when you have Messi in your team it only takes a second for you remove the game.
Victory also takes Miami into next season’s CONCACAF Cup whether or not they win the final, but now the focus is firmly on the silverware bid.