May 21st, 2024

Inter Miami erases two-goal deficit to beat Montreal 3-2 as Messi arrives in Canada

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on May 11, 2024.

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) retrieves the ball from the net after scoring in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the New England Revolution, Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Mark Stockwell)

MONTREAL – Benjamin Cremaschi scored the go-ahead goal in the 59th minute, and Inter Miami CF erased a two-goal deficit to defeat CF Montreal 3-2 in Lionel Messi’s first professional match in Canada on Saturday.

Messi – considered by many as the greatest footballer ever – was held off the scoresheet despite being in scorching hot form in Major League Soccer.

The 36-year-old entered the match with 10 goals and 12 assists in eight league games after a record-setting one-goal, five-assist showing in a 6-2 win over New York Red Bulls last week.

The Argentine superstar took the American soccer scene by storm last year with his move from Europe to Miami, and “Messi Mania” flocked north of the border on Saturday.

An announced sellout crowd of 19,619 spectators – including one dressed in Messi tracksuit and wearing a mask of a goat mask – took in the event. The match featured loud chants of “Messi! Messi! Messi!” throughout the evening.

Messi was joined by fellow former FC Barcelona stars Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets in the starting lineup.

Suarez scored his league-leading 11th goal of the season and Matias Rojas also scored as league-leading Miami (8-2-3) won its fifth straight game. Rojas also had an assist.

Jules-Anthony Vilsaint – with a goal and assist – and Bryce Duke replied for Montreal (3-5-3), which dropped points for the fourth consecutive MLS match. Montreal is 11th in the Eastern Conference. The club played its first match since officially parting ways with sporting officer Olivier Renard on Thursday.

Montreal defeated Miami 3-2 on the road on March 10 amid a hot start to the season, but Messi didn’t play.

After Suarez and Rojas scored late in the first half, Cremaschi put the visitors ahead 3-2, sliding into the ball and beating Jonathan Sirois after a Montreal defensive breakdown.

Montreal pressed for an equalizer much of the second half but couldn’t generate quality chances on goal.

Messi, seeking a goal, started showing off his talent late in the second half. The star forward had multiple runs through Montreal’s defence but couldn’t beat Sirois.

He also won a free kick at the edge of the box in the 87th minute, setting the stage for the crowd to erupt with a goal. Messi, however, didn’t deliver, sending the shot just over the bar.

Montreal’s Joel Waterman just missed the net with a half-volley in injury time, and Miami hung on for the win.

Just before kickoff, fireworks went off outside the stadium to mark the moment. The crowd erupted with Messi’s first touch before the superstar immediately gave it away.

Montreal then pounced on the attack in an electric first half.

Duke, a former Miami player, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. He slotted a left-footed finish between the legs of Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender after a perfect through ball from Vilsaint.

After Messi sailed a volley into the crowd, Montreal doubled its lead in the 32nd minute with Vilsaint the catalyst once again. The 21-year-old striker placed a clinical shot into the bottom-right corner after a give-and-go with Ariel Lassiter to send the crowd into a frenzy.

The fans held their breath in the 40th minute when Montreal’s George Campbell caught Messi in the leg with a hard foul.

Messi fell to the ground in pain for several minutes as trainers took the field, but ultimately got back up to draw more cheers.

With Messi temporarily off the field, Rojas made his best impression of the all-time great. Rojas curled a gorgeous free kick from 30 metres out into the net in the 44th minute to get Miami on the board.

Suarez then tied the match in first-half injury time with a header at the back post off a corner kick.

UP NEXT

Miami: Visits Orlando City SC on Wednesday.

Montreal: Hosts the Columbus Crew on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

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