Inter Miami CF defeated Nashville SC 10-9 on penalties in the Leagues Cup final on Saturday night after Lionel Messi scored early in regulation and hit the opening kick in penalty kicks.
In the 23rd minute, Messi scored his 10th goal in seven games since joining Inter Miami, all in Leagues Cup play.
Messi received the ball at his feet after teammate Robert Taylor’s pass was intercepted. Messi sped by Walker Zimmerman, a defender for Nashville, and fired a twisting ball from just outside the box into the upper left corner of the net. Elliot Panicco, a diving custodian, was helpless to stop the ball.
Before the goal, Messi wasn’t especially significant, and the crowd booed him constantly whenever he touched the ball. But when Argentina’s seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who helped his country win the World Cup last year, scored, the stadium erupted in applause.
When Fafa Picault’s header from a corner kick bounced off Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi and into the net off Nashville goalkeeper Drake Callender, Nashville was level.
In the 71st minute, Messi attempted to score from the same area, but his effort hit the post and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
In the final play of regulation, Miami striker Leonardo Campana had a chance to win the match, but his sliding shot on an open goal struck the post. When the ball trickled out of play, Messi covered his head with his hands.
Messi calmly converted the opening penalty shot, then Callender scored the winning PK and made the game-winning save.
“It’s a huge honor to play a role in our first win in a final,” Callender said. “It’s pretty surreal. Very emotional. This team works so hard day-in, day-out to be able to perform like this on a night like this. And to have it come down to the very end, it was amazing to see the grit, just the belief of what we’re capable of. It’s something special and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
Callender claimed that he made an effort to maintain his composure throughout the 11 rounds of penalties.
Nashville SC beat Monterrey of the Mexican league on Tuesday to move to the final against Miami, sparking Messi fever in Music City. After they went on sale the following day, ticket prices surged, although they started to drop a little bit in the days leading up to the game. Even the least expensive seats are several hundred dollars. Geodis Park was at capacity with 30,109 people present.
Reese Witherspoon, a resident of Nashville, presented the game ball, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, practised his goal-scoring before the match. They both share a minority owners in Nashville SC.
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