Lionel Messi scores twice as Inter Miami crush Atlanta

Lionel Messi’s instant impact in the United States continued on Tuesday as he scored twice in Inter Miami’s 4-0 victory over Atlanta United, firing his team into the knockout rounds of the Leagues Cup. The Argentine World Cup-winner was handed his first start for his new club after coming off the bench and grabbing a 94th-minute winner in Friday’s game against Mexican club Cruz Azul.

In his first game against a Major League Soccer club, Messi was simply too much for Atlanta to cope with and he struck up a fruitful understanding with Finnish winger Robert Taylor, who helped himself to Miami’s other two goals.

The Leagues Cup is a tournament which brings together all the top-flight teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX and with two wins Miami top their group and with their new arrival looking settled so quickly, they will surely believe they can get their first-ever trophy.

Atlanta fatally began the game playing a high-line, hoping to compress the space for Messi, but the approach simply allowed Miami to pick their moments to go over the top and exploit the space behind.

Lionel Messi

It was via such a route that Messi put the home side ahead in the eighth minute when he was sent free by a ball over the top from his former Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets. Messi burst into the box and although his low shot struck the post, he made no mistake with the rebound, side-footing into the goal.

The seven-times Ballon d’Or winner then doubled the advantage in the 22nd minute, the first of three goals that saw him combine with Finnish winger Robert Taylor.

Messi ran at the back-pedalling Atlanta defence before switching to Taylor who slid the ball back into the path of the 36-year-old who slotted home.

Another Busquets ball over the top found Messi but the off-side flag was raised after he shot straight at Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan.

Miami made it 3-0, a minute before the interval, when Messi fed Benjamin Cremaschi, who cleverly flicked the ball to Taylor who defied the tight angle with a fierce blast. Eight minutes after half-time, Atlanta were caught on the break when a corner was cleared to Messi, who ran from deep in his own half before feeding Taylor to his left who drilled in a low shot off the inside of the far post.

The margin of victory allowed Miami’s Argentine head coach Gerardo Martino to rest Busquets and Messi with the latter substituted in the 78th minute. Messi’s Argentina team-mate Thiago Almada had a chance for a consolation for Atlanta but his penalty was well saved by Miami keeper Drew Callender.

Source: eNCA

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