Messi shines again in first Inter Miami start, scores twice in 4-0 win over Atlanta

Inter Miami swept its group in the Leagues Cup and moved on to the round of 32 in the competition, in which it will host a to-be-determined opponent.

Published: 26th July 2023 01:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th July 2023 07:06 PM   |  A+A-

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi reacts after scoring a goal during the first half of a Leagues Cup soccer match against Atlanta United. (Photo | AP)


FORT LAUDERDALE (FLORIDA): Lionel Messi's instant impact in the United States continued on Tuesday as he scored twice in Inter Miami's 4-0 victory over Atlanta United, firing his team into the knockout rounds of the Leagues Cup.

The Argentine World Cup winner was handed his first start for his new club after coming off the bench and grabbing a 94th-minute winner in Friday's game against Mexican club Cruz Azul.

In his first game against a Major League Soccer club, Messi was simply too much for Atlanta to cope with and he struck up a fruitful understanding with Finnish winger Robert Taylor, who helped himself to Miami's other two goals.

The Leagues Cup is a tournament which brings together all the top-flight teams from MLS and Mexico's Liga MX and with two wins Miami tops their group with their new arrival looking settled so quickly, they will surely believe they can get their first-ever trophy.

Atlanta fatally began the game playing a high line, hoping to compress the space for Messi, but the approach simply allowed Miami to pick their moments to go over the top and exploit the space behind.

It was via such a route that Messi put the home side ahead in the eighth minute when he was sent free by a ball over the top from his former Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets.

Messi burst into the box and although his low shot struck the post, he made no mistake with the rebound, side-footing into the goal.

The seven-times Ballon d'Or winner then doubled the advantage in the 22nd minute, the first of three goals that saw him combine with Finnish winger Robert Taylor.

Messi ran at the back-pedalling Atlanta defence before switching to Taylor who slid the ball back into the path of the 36-year-old who slotted home.

Another Busquets ball over the top found Messi but the off-side flag was raised after he shot straight at Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan.

Miami made it 3-0, a minute before the interval when Messi fed Benjamin Cremaschi, who cleverly flicked the ball to Taylor who defied the tight angle with a fierce blast.

Eight minutes after half-time, Atlanta were caught on the break when a corner was cleared to Messi, who ran from deep in his own half before feeding Taylor to his left who drilled in a low shot off the inside of the far post.

The margin of victory allowed Miami's Argentine head coach Gerardo Martino to rest Busquets and Messi with the latter substituted in the 78th minute.

Messi's Argentina team-mate Thiago Almada had a chance for a consolation for Atlanta but his penalty was well saved by Miami keeper Drew Callender.

Miami, bottom of the MLS standings, had not won for 11 league games prior to Messi's arrival, but looks utterly transformed by his impact, together with Busquets.

"Their arrival has given the players a lot of confidence," said Martino, who ten years ago coached the pair at Barcelona.

"The players feel more supported, they feel that the responsibility is carried by the great players and so they feel more liberated to play," he added.

Martino, who also coached Messi with the Argentine national team, said his World Cup triumph last season had given him a new lease on life.

"He has taken a huge weight off his shoulders with the Argentine national team. You can see it in everything, in his day-to-day life, in his statements, in the way he approaches the games. Leo is liberated and we can expect more of this type of performance," he added.

Atlanta were MLS champions in 2018 under Martino but their current boss, Gonzalo Pineda said they had been outclassed.

"They were the better key moments they did not forgive. Against players like Messi, you can't make mistakes and we made them in the first, second and fourth goals," he said.

Taylor, who exploited perfectly the space created for him by Messi, deservedly received his own ovation as he left the field.

"Every time Leo has the ball we have a few players running in behind and that creates loads of space for everyone else," Taylor said.

"I mean, he's the best player in the world. This is what he does – he scores two goals, he scored last game, gets another assist. It's a dream come true to play with him," he added.

Follow The New Indian Express channel on WhatsApp


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp