Soccer-Messi shines as Inter Miami beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 in MLS season opener


  • Football
  • Thursday, 22 Feb 2024

Feb 21, 2024; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) kicks the ball against Real Salt Lake midfielder Braian Ojeda (6) during the first half at Chase Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) -Lionel Messi set up one goal and had a hand in another as Inter Miami weathered a Real Salt Lake storm after the break to emerge with a 2-0 victory in the opening match of the 2024 Major League Soccer season.

Miami dominated the first half in Fort Lauderdale and broke through in the 39th minute when Messi split the defence to find Robert Taylor, whose low shot looked like it had been saved by Zac MacMath before it spun out of his arms and into the net.

Salt Lake, who had been tentative in the first half, came out energised after the break and began to turn up the heat on a Miami side which spent the off-season playing matches in Asia and the Middle East.

Miami survived the onslaught with the help of some clutch saves from goalkeeper Drake Callender and sealed the win when Messi combined with former Barcelona team mate Luis Suarez to set up Diego Gomez to make it 2-0 in the 83rd minute.

That goal led to fireworks being shot off at the newly-named Chase Stadium as the 29th MLS season kicked off with a win for Messi's side.

"I knew I was going to face tough competition (in MLS)," Suarez said through an interpreter after his first game in the league.

"And Inter Miami, being one of the favourites for the title, we knew we were going to play always against full force."

Messi made a huge splash when he joined Miami midseason last July, leading them to a Leagues Cup title, yet he was unable to weave enough magic to help his new club overcome their early season results and make the playoffs.

Miami, which is co-owned by former England captain David Beckham, added 37-year-old Uruguayan striker Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba in the offseason and are favourites to win their first MLS Cup.

Miami will now travel to face Beckham's former team LA Galaxy on Sunday in Carson, California.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Peter Rutherford)

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