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Dazzling Lionel Messi skill lights up Inter Miami’s MLS season opener against Real Salt Lake


By George Ramsay, CNN

(CNN) — Lionel Messi produced a memorable piece of skill during Inter Miami’s 2-0 victory against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, the opening game of the MLS season.

In possession on the edge of the Real Salt Lake box, Messi looked to get a shot away while injured opponent Andrew Brody lay on the ground in front of him.

That proved no problem for the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, who chipped the ball over Brody’s prone body before seeing his shot blocked.

It was just one of Messi’s several inspired moments during the course of the game as Miami got its highly-anticipated MLS campaign off to a winning start.

“I saw [Messi] playing free on the field. And with the same fine touch he always had. And he showed some speed too,” Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said of the 2022 World Cup winner’s performance, according to ESPN.

“He has a characteristic that no other player has. He grabs the ball very far from the rival goal and the feeling he gives is that he will generate something [that] will end in a goal situation.”

Messi, who picked up an injury during Miami’s pre-season tour, started the game at Chase Stadium alongside former Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.

But it was another forward, Robert Taylor, who gave Miami the lead in the first half when he collected a pass from Messi and drove a shot under Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath for the first goal of the new MLS season.

Late on in the second half, the 36-year-old Messi once again helped to set up a goal, combining with Suárez before Diego Gómez found the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Suárez had a glorious opportunity to get a goal on his first MLS start, but his close-range shot was kicked away by MacMath, who then also denied Messi moments later.

This season, expectations are high for Martino’s Inter Miami team, which won the Leagues Cup title last year following Messi’s arrival.

The star-studded side started to deliver on those expectations in Wednesday’s curtain-raiser to the new season, with Messi at the heart of Miami’s best moments.

He came close to opening the scoring in the 17th minute against Real Salt Lake when his long-range free-kick was headed off the line by Justen Glad, while Julian Gressel had a fantastic chance to make it 2-0 in the second half after Messi’s mazy run and lofted cross.

Real Salt Lake’s best scoring opportunities came in the second period: Andrés Gómez intercepted Busquets’ pass but drove his shot wide, and Brayan Vera’s header from a corner was brilliantly saved by Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.

But Gómez’s goal ultimately wrapped up the victory for Miami, which next faces LA Galaxy in Carson, California on Sunday.

Messi’s first full season in the US has seen a huge ticket demand for Miami’s games, and Wednesday was no exception.

The average purchase price was about $185 per seat – 585% more expensive than Inter Miami’s opening home game last season (before Messi had signed for the team) when tickets cost about $27, according to TickPick.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jordan Valinsky contributed to reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Sports

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