Lionel Messi and Inter Miami defeated Nashville SC with penalties to win the Leagues Cup Final on Saturday night. The Argentine scored a stunner, but Miami could not hold off the pushback from Nashville. Even though Fafa Picault sent the game to penalties with a second-half goal, Miami persevered. The shootout reached the 11th round, where Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender not only scored his penalty but saved the spot kick of Nashville shot-stopper Elliot Panicco.
This revamped Leagues Cup competition drew headlines from across the globe. Much of that was because of Lionel Messi, who only played his first game for Inter Miami less than a month ago. However, his scintillating form with the south Florida club carried one of the worst teams in MLS to its first trophy. Nine goals in six Leagues Cup games entering this competition made the Argentine, unsurprisingly, the top scorer in the competition.
Therefore, Messi’s opening goal in the first half was to be expected. Still, the quality of the goal may be Messi’s best since switching over to Inter Miami. Nashville kept Messi bottled up for the first 22 minutes. In his first real opportunity on the ball, Messi dribbled past Walker Zimmerman. With three more Nashville defenders converging, Messi unleashed a wicked left-footed shot into the top-left corner of Panicco’s goal.
It was Messi’s 10th goal of the tournament, three more than Bongokuhle Hlongwane of Minnesota United.
Nashville pulls level with strong second half
Even if all the eyes of the expensive tickets at Geodis Park were on Messi, it was the hosts to come out stronger in the second half. After 12 minutes, Nashville earned a corner. Fafa Picault touched a fairly tame effort toward goal. Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi diverted the ball away. However, Drake Callender, attempting to come back to his goal line, deflected the ball in.
Both sides had strong chances in the remainder of the game. For example, Messi hit the post from outside the box with a shot across the face of goal. Yet, the biggest chance came moments before the full-time whistle. Sergio Busquets lofted a ball up to Leonardo Campana. Campana won a 50/50 against the Nashville defense, and he found himself through on goal against Panicco. After Campana dinked the ball over the goalkeeper, he could not get around his attempt. His final sliding shot clanked off the post and went out for a goal kick.
Miami wins Leagues Cup Final with 11-round shootout
With the Leagues Cup skipping a 30-minute extra time period, the final dove straight into penalties. Messi and Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar converted their penalties to get things started. However, Miami took a lead after Sergio Busquets scored and Callender saved Randall Leal’s shot. In the fifth round and with the game on the line. Panicco saved Victor Ulloa’s shot.
Over the next five rounds, each of the 10 players scored. On most occasions, the shooters tucked the balls away with venom. Eventually, the goalkeepers needed to step up. Callender roofed his shot with power. On the other hand, Panicco was not so fortunate. At a comfortable height for Callender, the American goalkeeper parried the ball away to ensure a Miami victory.
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The Leagues Cup Final is Messi’s 44th trophy, which makes him the most decorated soccer player of all time. He won the award for player of the tournament and highest goal-scorer for his heroics. Messi still has the opportunity to add more silverware to his debut season with Inter Miami. The club is still alive in the US Open Cup.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire
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