Lionel Messi made the perfect debut for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami as he scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Liga MX’s Cruz Azul 2-1 on Friday in their Leagues Cup opener in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Messi drew a foul about 25 yards from goal in the dying seconds and stepped up to deliver a superb free-kick.
El primer gol de Messi con Inter Miami ????????????????
Messi scores in his first match with the club to give us the lead in the 94th minute. pic.twitter.com/pI7bYjEK63
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 22, 2023
“I knew I had to score, it was the last play of the game and I had to score so we didn’t’ go to penalties,” Messi said on the broadcast through a translator.
“It was very important for us to get this win because it’s a new tournament and it’s going to give us confidence moving forward.”
With four-times NBA champion LeBron James, tennis great Serena Williams and reality television star Kim Kardashian among those in the sold-out crowd, Messi entered the game as a second-half substitute to a rousing ovation with Miami ahead 1-0.
Messi was introduced as “the world’s number 10” when he came into the game in the 54th minute, slipped the captain’s armband on his left arm and sent the crowd into a frenzy whenever he touched the ball.
“As soon as I saw the free kick given I thought this is the way it’s meant to end,” said Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham. “It’s so exciting tonight for our fans. All of these people that have come down here to see Leo just step on the pitch, let alone just do what he’s done.
“It’s a dream come true for everybody in this stadium and everybody around this country to see Leo step into the MLS and perform and I don’t have many words for that.”
Inter Miami close out the two-game group stage on Tuesday when they host Atlanta United with hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the Leagues Cup, which is a World Cup-style tournament featuring all teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.