Messi conjures more magic to help Inter Miami reach another final
Lionel Messi played a pivotal role as Inter Miami defeated Cincinnati to reach the final of the U.S. Open Cup.
It was a dramatic evening in Ohio, with the Florida-based outfit staring down the barrel of defeat late on thanks to goals from Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez either side of a strike by Leonardo Campana.
But Miami’s main man Messi came to the fore deep into stoppage time, delivering an inch-perfect cross on to the head of Campana to record his second assist and force extra-time.
Josef Martinez then looked as if he had won it for the visitors, only for Yuya Kubo to bag an 114th-minute equaliser to send the enthralling encounter to penalties.
It was Miami’s second shootout in the space of four days after their Leagues Cup final triumph over Nashville last Saturday night, with goalkeeper Drake Callender once again proving to be the hero after Messi converted his spot-kick.
Benjamin Cremaschi fired home the winning penalty after Callender denied Cincinnati’s Nick Hagglund.
Following the latest nail-biting victory, Miami boss Gerardo Martino took the opportunity to praise Messi, saying: “He’s a leader on the pitch and with the group he’s shown it for a long time, not only here with Miami but also with Argentina.
“Luckily, players get behind his leadership and enthusiasm in his response for every moment, no matter the circumstances and today he showed it more as a conductor than a finisher and you saw that with the pass late in the match but he makes difficult plays look easy.”
On Messi’s decisive actions, Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan added: “He makes the delivery on the plays that matter and that’s where he’s a difference-maker.”
Miami will return to Major League Soccer action at New York Red Bulls on Saturday night and will host next month’s U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, September 27.