Inter Miami secured their first-ever trophy as Lionel Messi’s signature goal propelled them to victory against Nashville FC in a thrilling Leagues Cup final on Saturday. The closely contested match ended in a penalty kick shootout, where Inter Miami emerged triumphant with a score of 10-9 after sudden death.
The historic clash took place at Geodis Park in Tennessee, with both teams vying for their inaugural title since joining MLS in 2020. It was Inter Miami’s captain, Lionel Messi, who made a significant impact by opening the scoring in the 23rd minute. Messi displayed his trademark finesse, curling a mesmerizing left-footed strike past defenders and into the top left corner of the net, giving Inter Miami a 1-0 lead.
Nashville FC responded in the second half as Fafa Picault capitalized on a corner kick, with his header deflecting off Inter Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi and Drake Callender before finding the back of the net in the 57th minute. Despite further attempts from both teams, including several near misses, the match concluded 1-1, leading to the dramatic penalty shootout.
During the penalty shootout, Messi, along with teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, scored for Inter Miami. As the shootout entered sudden death, both goalkeepers were called upon to take penalties. Ultimately, it was Inter Miami who emerged victorious when Callender saved Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco’s attempt, sealing the tie 10-9 in favor of Inter Miami.
Although Inter Miami currently occupies the bottom spot in the MLS standings, the team’s fortunes have taken a remarkable turn since the addition of 2022 World Cup winner Lionel Messi in June. Messi’s debut featured a stunning game-winning goal, and the team has maintained an undefeated streak, securing a club-record seven consecutive wins leading up to the Leagues Cup final. Throughout their journey to their inaugural title, Inter Miami secured four of their seven victories in the tournament with a comfortable margin.
Messi’s remarkable performance in the Leagues Cup saw him score 10 goals in seven matches since joining the team, reinforcing his status as one of football’s greatest talents.
On an individual level, the Leagues Cup victory marked Messi’s 44th career trophy, solidifying his place as the most decorated men’s footballer in the history of the sport, as reported by ESPN.
The Leagues Cup, an annual tournament featuring teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, expanded its scope this year to include all participating teams from both leagues. As a result of their Leagues Cup triumph, Inter Miami secured direct qualification to the 2024 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Nashville FC, despite finishing as runners-up, also earned a spot in next year’s tournament and will participate in the opening round.
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