Inter Miami claims first-ever trophy on account of Messi’s exceptional skill
Sunday August 20, 2023
Lionel Messi delivered a stunning performance and secured his first victory in North American football as Inter Miami triumphed over Nashville in a penalty shootout (10-9) after a 1-1 draw in the Leagues Cup final.
The Argentine World Cup champion propelled Miami into the lead with an incredible goal in the 24th minute, finding the top corner of the net. However, Fafa Picault managed to equalize for Nashville in the second half on Saturday.
As the game progressed, Messi hit the post and Leonardo Campana missed a golden opportunity to win the game for Miami. This led to a shootout, which ultimately became a battle between the two goalkeepers, with Drake Callender of Miami saving Elliot Panicco’s shot.
Messi and his teammates rushed to celebrate with Callender, who had made crucial saves to keep Miami in the game.
Miami, who were at the bottom of Major League Soccer before Messi joined them a month ago, have undergone a remarkable transformation. Alongside Spanish duo Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, Messi has led the team to an unbeaten run of seven games, culminating in the League Cup victory.
David Beckham, the club’s co-owner and creator, expressed his astonishment at the swift impact of the former Barcelona trio, stating, “It’s like watching a movie. Emotionally, their play is absolutely beautiful.”
Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, has now scored 10 goals in seven matches for his new club. On Wednesday, he will have the opportunity to reach another final as Miami faces Cincinnati in the US Open Cup semifinals.
With the Leagues Cup trophy, Messi has now accumulated an incredible 44 titles, the most by any player. He was also named the player of the tournament, which features teams from MLS and Liga MX.
Although this victory did not showcase the dominant and entertaining Miami team that has impressed in recent weeks, it was still a sweet triumph. Midfielder Busquets expressed his joy, saying, “I am very happy to win our first title in just one month, the club’s first. The team is growing rapidly, and we are delighted.”
Nashville aimed to limit the impact of Busquets and consequently Messi, effectively forcing Miami to adopt a slower possession style deeper in their own half.
Gary Smith’s side demonstrated early on that they could pose a threat through set pieces, with Walker Zimmerman’s header from a Lukas MacNaughton corner requiring a low save from Callender.
Miami continued to probe, with Messi dropping back and searching for gaps in Nashville’s defense.
However, with Zimmerman leading their backline effectively, chances were scarce until Robert Taylor unleashed a powerful shot that Panicco did well to parry.
Only three minutes later, Miami took the lead, with Messi unsurprisingly playing a crucial role. Blocked by Taylor’s attempted pass, the ball fell to Messi who swiftly bypassed Zimmerman, creating enough space to unleash an unstoppable long-range strike that flew into the top corner beyond Panicco’s reach.
Miami appeared to be in complete control, demonstrating confidence bordering on swagger. However, the second half told a different story.
Nashville managed to equalize from a corner, as Picault’s header ricocheted off Benjamin Cremaschi and Callender into the net.
Suddenly, Nashville gained belief, with their German forward Hany Mukhtar posing a threat through his speed and testing Miami’s defense with a powerful shot from the right.
Messi came close to another spectacular moment in the 71st minute, narrowly missing the target with a shot from outside the box.
Yet, in the final seconds, his Ecuadorian teammate Campana had the opportunity to secure victory for Miami. Although Campana managed to round Panicco, his tight-angle shot hit the post, leaving the goal untouched.
The match then proceeded to a penalty shootout, with both teams converting their first 10 penalties. It ultimately came down to the goalkeepers, and Callender maintained his composure, converting his shot before denying Panicco and sparking the celebrations.
As the players celebrated with champagne in the locker room, Argentine coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino embraced a reflective mood.
“The most crucial aspect was developing a team while we were participating in a seven-game tournament, and that’s a highly challenging task,” he expressed.
“Winning this title in just 30 days has given us greater clarity about what the future holds for us.”