Fort Lauderdale, US, Oct 7 (EFE).- Even the return of Leo Messi couldn’t save Inter Miami on Saturday, losing 0-1 to Cincinnati and ending their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
Inter Miami CF goalkeeper Drake Callender (L) blocks the final penalty kick after regulation to give Miami the win in the 2023 Leagues Cup final between Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 19 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MARK HUMPHREY
It was Inter Miami’s first defeat with Messi on the field, and he played 36 minutes upon entering in the second half, trying to find a miracle to keep his team alive.
After 17 injury days off, Messi was seen lacking rhythm and limping, although his talent gave him several scoring opportunities, including several direct free kicks.
The defeat left Inter Miami with no options, being seven points behind DC United with two games remaining.
The start of the game offered chances for both teams. Argentinian Tomás Avilés crashed the ball into the crossbar in the eighth minute after taking a corner, and the error generated a counterattack by Cincinnati’s Brazilian Sergio Santos.
Without respite, both teams focused on their attacks, giving the two goalkeepers the leading roles. Callender took it low from Santos, and Benja Cremaschi tried a couple of times from outside the area to test Román Celentano.
In two minutes two more balls hit the woodwork for the locals, the first from Venezuelan Josef Martínez in the 22nd minute and a few seconds later it was Cremaschi who found the crossbar when trying a lob to Celentano.
Upon returning from the locker room, Messi began warming up, taking all the attention off the field.
Cincinnati came out stronger and they had a double chance after four minutes. First the Colombian Santi Arias and then the Gabonese Aaron Boupendza forced Callender to shine with a double save.
Even the post saved him shortly after, again a shot from Boupendza, which bounced off Canadian Kamal Miller and hit the wood.
Messi entered in the 54th minute, put on the captain’s armband, and along with him, the Brazilian Jean Mota also participated.
A shot from Mota was the first warning, and Celentano responded. But the situation had changed – in the 57th minute Messi caused a foul in the exact place, where he likes it, where he does best, about five meters from the front and slightly to the right.
He kicked it high, but the trust and hierarchy on the field already seemed different. What they gained in attack, the locals lost in defense, and the change left them much more exposed at the back.
This is how visitors’ chances came for Boupendza, Busquets headed the ball that hit the post, and a close shot by Vázquez made it a huge day for Callender. It was six minutes of a nightmare for Miami.
What was supposed to be a solution ended up being the undoing of Gerardo Martino’s team.
Busquets lost a ball in a key area and a clear chance was created for another shot by Boupendza to which Callender responded, but the rebound fell to Argentinian Álvaro Barreal, who opened the scoring in the 78th minute.
The match ended with Inter Miami on the attack looking for a miracle that did not come. EFE