Lionel Messi scored two goals with an assist in Inter Miami’s 4-0 win over Atlanta United as he and Sergio Busquets were in Inter Miami starting line-up on Tuesday July 25 at DRV PNK Arena in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The two former Barcelona players are already having an impact, with Busquets lifting a perfect ball over Atlanta’s defense to Messi, who missed his first opportunity but was able to bounce back to give Miami a 1-0 lead in the eighth moment.
Messi added one more goal a counterattack in the 22nd minute to double the margin with an assist from Robert Taylor, who scored Miami’s third to give the team a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Taylor scored the last goal for Miami after the break with an aasist from Messi, who was substituted in the 78th minute to a stirring applause from the home team. Busquets left the game six minutes sooner and was replaced by Victor Ulloa.
“It was a good performance and I’m pleased we were able to make our fans happy. A very good game and we took another step in the right direction,” Miami manager Gerardo Martino said.
Miami swept its group and moved on to the round of 32 in the Leagues Cup, in which it will host an opponent to be determined.
Atlanta became the 100th club that Messi has scored against.
Busquets and Messi spent 13 years playing together in Barca’s most memorable team before the Argentine moved to PSG in 2021, and they have remained very close friends since their trophy-laden run at Camp Nou.
“So many years playing together, so it’s very easy to play with him,” Busquets said. “I’m so happy to be by his side.”
Messi and Busquets came on as substitutes in their debut in an emotional win over Cruz Azul on Friday that saw Messi won the match on the last kick.
Coach Martino managed Messi and Busquets for a season at Barcelona and said after the match he wasn’t shocked to see them interface for the first goal.
These two players are so good at what they do, they create space,” Martino said.
“Since those two have gotten here, the spirit has changed,” Miami right-back DeAndre Yedlin said. “Obviously, guys are really excited. But I think just their presence gives everybody more confidence. And I think also the teams that we’re playing against now have a bit of fear in their eyes. When those two are on the field, you know you’re in for a tough game.”
The match was also Martino’s first against his former club, which he led the MLS Cup title in 2018. Martino, who was named Miami’s coach on June 28, affirmed Monday that Messi would be the team’s captain against Atlanta and pushing forward.
“I think the fans respond according to what they see and what the team transmits to them. Many come to see Lionel. Celebrities and regular fans. He stands out but he can also spread that support from the fans to the rest of the team,” Martino said.
His thoughts on fans leaving in droves after Messi was substituted:
“I didn’t really notice. The type of player he is, Messi is a global star, some fans might only be here to see him, but he would prefer if the fans would stay until the end to applaud the team, but I can also understand it.”
On Friday, Messi gave a brand name snapshot of magic to give Miami a 2-1 win, twisting a free kick from right external the penalty box into the top corner to put a bow on the storybook adventure that saw him eventually sign with co-owner David Beckham’s side in MLS.
Miami and Atlanta are currently playing in the inaugural Leagues Cup competition — a World Cup-style tournament between MLS and Liga MX sides. Messi could make his official debut in an MLS game at home against Charlotte on Aug. 20.
One player who is expected to make his debut for Inter Miami is another former Barcelona player, Jordi Alba, who signed with Miami on July 20. Alba was excluded from Miami’s team list for the game against Atlanta.
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