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Lionel Messi and Inter Miami capture first trophy in club history with nail-biting victory over Nashville FC in Leagues Cup final

KIFI

By Homero De la Fuente, CNN

(CNN) — Lionel Messi scored a signature goal Saturday to lead Inter Miami past Nashville FC in a penalty kick shootout to capture the Leagues Cup title and score the club’s first trophy.

With both clubs playing for their first ever trophy since joining MLS in 2020, it was Inter Miami’s captain Messi who opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, curling in a sensational left-footed strike past a wall of defenders and into the top left corner of the goal to put the team ahead 1-0 at Geodis Park in Tennessee.

In the second half, Nashville drew the match level when Fafa Picault knocked in a header off a corner kick in the 57th minute that deflected off Inter Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi and Drake Callender before going into the goal.

After several close encounters from both teams, the match went into penalties level at 1-1.

Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba all scored their penalties for Inter Miami as the shootout progressed into sudden death. After the goalkeepers were needed to each make an attempt, it was Inter Miami who came out victorious 10-9 when Callender saved Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco’s attempt to settle the tie.

Although Inter Miami sits last in MLS standings, the club has had quite the turnaround since the 2022 World Cup winner Messi joined the squad in June.

After scoring a stunning game-winner in his debut, the team has remained undefeated, winning a club record seven straight matches in the competition culminating with the trophy winning tilt on Saturday. On their journey to the club’s first title, Inter Miami won four of its seven matches in the tournament by multiple goals.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi finished the tournament with 10 goals in seven matches since joining the team.

On an individual level – with the Leagues Cup victory – Messi captured the 44th trophy of his career, becoming the most decorated men’s footballer in the sport’s history, according to ESPN.

The Leagues Cup, an annual tournament between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, was expanded this year to include all teams in each league.

With the victory, Inter Miami qualifies directly to the 2024 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Nashville also qualified for next year’s tournament with their runner-up finish and will play in its opening round.

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