Lionel Messi scored a dazzling goal in the 89th minute of his Major League Soccer debut, helping Inter Miami beat the New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Saturday night and end an 11-match league winless streak.
Forty-eight years after Pele joined the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos in an effort to jumpstart soccer in the United States, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner entered in the 60th minute.
Jordi Alba made an acrobatic leap to blindly centre Sergio Busquet’s cross-back pass to Messi. The 36-year-old star dribbled through three defenders and side-footed the ball to Benjamin Cremaschi. The 18-year-old American one-touched the ball back and Messi sprinted toward goal and let it bounce in off his left foot from in front.
Messi has 11 goals in nine games for Miami in all competitions.
The match drew the Red Bulls’ first home sellout this season, and resale tickets were listed for over $1,000 in the week leading to the game.
Messi followed David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a far more stable league that hopes to one day challenge the more established American sports in popularity.
Chants of “We Want Messi!” began in the sixth minute and a loud “Mes-si!” “Mes-si!” reverberated throughout in the 35th. Diego Gomez, a 20-year-old Paraguayan forward among four Miami starters making MLS debuts, scored in the 37th minute.
Fan’s focus was on Messi when he started to warm up three minutes into the second half, and a roar erupted when Martino signalled for him to take off his pinny and head to the centre stripe.
Messi played his first Miami game on July 21 in the Leagues Cup and scored 10 goals in seven games in that competition and a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
Miami had not won a league match since May 13 against New England and had just one road victory, on April 29 at Columbus.
The streets around Red Bull Arena were packed 2 1/2 hours before the match, filled with dozens of scalpers and people selling unlicensed Messi jerseys. A simulcast of the game was scheduled on a video board in Times Square. About half wore Messi jerseys from Argentina, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Miami.
Miami scored the first goal when Alba, like Messi and Busquets making debuts, took a free kick after a foul by Andrés Reyes and the ball was punched out by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.
Robert Taylor played the ball wide to Noah Allen, and the 19-year-old defender made a diagonal pass to Gomez, who settled with a touch and put the ball inside the far post with a left-foot shot from about 14 yards.
- Al Nassr vs Al Duhail LIVE score, NAS 1-0 DUH, AFC Champions League: Nawaf saves Kim’s shot; Talisca goal keeps home team ahead
- Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs Bashundhara Kings, AFC Cup HIGHLIGHTS: Kings end Super Giant’s winning streak with 2-2 draw
- ODI World Cup 2023: Mahmudullah dedicates ton against South Africa to those who supported him
- Champions League: PSG’s games against Milan are a must win to qualify ‘Group of Death’: Luis Enrique
- Bishan Singh Bedi cremated in presence of Indian sports legends