Lionel Messi leads Inter Miami into their first EVER final with another STUNNING goal in 4-1 Leagues Cup victory against Philadelphia Union 4-1
Lionel Messi scored a stunning strike from 35 yards to lead Inter Miami into the Leagues Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia Union.
Miami made a whirlwind start with Messi’s strike partner Josef Martinez scoring in just the third minute, latching onto a long ball and rifling home into the far corner.
It was a dream start for Miami in one the toughest games, on paper, the team has faces since Messi arrived a month ago. And the World Cup winner showed exactly why there is so much excitement over his presence in the US 17 minutes later.
Picking up a ball that was flicked into his path by Martinez, Messi strolled 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 from 35 yards.
The ball stayed low and swerved out of the reach of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, nestling into the corner and leaving what had been a rowdy crowd at Subaru Park stunned into silence.
There was more to come before the halftime interval – Jordi Alba rounded off a fabulous sweeping move for his first goal in Miami colors, running through one-on-one and beating Blake with the composure of a striker like Messi or Martinez.
Union coach Jim Curtin clearly told his team not to respect the likes of Messi, Alba and Sergio Busquets at the halftime break. He also made two changes, bringing on Jack McGlynn and Mikael Uhre for Leon Flach and Damion Lowe.
Union attacked Miami and had some success. Drake Callendar made an outstanding save to deny Chris Donovan’s header and Union then got one back in the 73rd minute through substitute Alejandro Bedoya.
It felt, at that time, that the momentum was with Union and with 15 minutes plus stoppage time left, a second goal could have made it nervy for Miami.
But instead, David Ruiz made the game safe for Miami with a smart low finish in the 84th minute to snuff out any fears of a Union comeback.
There are lessons to learn for Miami ahead of the final – a more ruthless team might have made the second half harder for them but when you’ve got Messi in your team, it only takes a second to take the game away from you.
Victory also takes Miami into next season’s CONCACAF Cup, regardless of whether they win the final but now attention is locked firmly on the bid for silverware.