Inter Miami started their 2023 Leagues Cup campaign with a dramatic victory against Cruz Azul on Friday. A Messi free-kick stole the show as all eyes were on the club’s new signing. The superstar eventually came off of the bench to score the match-winning goal in the 94th minute.

The Major League Soccer side first took the lead just before the halftime break. Robbie Robinson sent a long ball out towards the left flank to midfielder Robert Taylor.

The Finland international collected the pass, sized up his defender, and cut inside towards the opposing box. Taylor then sent in a dangerous low shot that struck the far post and went into the back of the net. It was Finn’s third total goal of the current campaign.

Visitors claw back as Messi free-kick marks debut

Messi, and fellow new signing Sergio Busquets, then entered the fray as substitutes 10 minutes into the second half. With the home crowd going wild, the Liga MX club struck back to tie the match. Jesus Duenas played teammate Uriel Antuna in on goal with a beautiful pass that cut through the Miami defense. Antuna then struck a powerful shot that went through a diving Drake Callender in goal.

Nevertheless, the sellout crowd at DRV PNK Stadium would be in for some Messi magic late in the match. The superstar was judged to have been fouled just outside of the opposing box in added time.

This would essentially be the final chance for Miami to win the game. There would be no doubts about who would step up to take the free kick. Messi sent his dead ball shot over the Cruz Azul wall and into the back of the net.

Superstar’s goal ‘like a movie’ says Inter coach

“It was like a movie that will play on repeat forever. It’s almost like it was written…[Messi] is always there to write these stories,” proclaimed Inter head coach Tata Martino after the match.

Messi also acknowledged that he knew it was his final opportunity of the game to grab the winner.

“I knew it was the last chance,” Messi told Apple TV.

“I just tried like I always do and fortunately the goalkeeper couldn’t get the ball. It is important for this team to get wins because we are not in a good position in the league. I know this is another tournament but it will help our morale.”

Inter will next face fellow American club Atlanta United in the Leagues Cup on Tuesday, July 25th. It could very well be Messi’s first chance to start for Martino’s team. The Argentine star will then get a break before his first taste of Major League Soccer. Inter is set to restart league play against Charlotte on August 20th.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire