Lionel Messi has once again showcased the world why is he called the greatest football player as he led his side Inter Miami to a maiden Leagues Cup glory, as David Beckham owned club edges a sturdy Nashville SC in tense penalty shoot-out, in a game which has seen everything, from missed opportunities to world class screamers. Messi sets a record milestone as he wins his 44th trophy of his career, becoming the most decorated footballer in history.
Inter Miami wins Leagues Cup
Inter Miami, a club which is owned by former England legend David Beckham, has been adjudged the winners of the coveted Leagues Cup, after they went past Nashville in the finals of the tournament. Argentine football legend Lionel Messi has been on the headlines since the day he joined the MLS outfit, which, at the present moment, lies at the bottom of the table, and was having a winless streak, then, Messi happened to them, which has led to a meteoric rise for the Florida based club. In a tournament where no one paid heed to Miami, it is the Stateside club which has added their first jewel to their crown, after a hiatus of three long years. Lionel Messi scored a screamer once again on the 23rd minute, but Nashville star Fafa Picault turned things around for them, as he equalized from a Harry Mukhtar corner. The game was all but over when Leonardo Campana missed in the dying minutes to achieve a lead for Miami, the game thus proceeding to an intense tie-breaker, which saw shots taken by every player on the field, with Miami keeper Drake Callender reigning supreme in the final spot kick when his opponent custodian from Nashville, Panicco missed his chance.
In one of the important games in the history of both the clubs, both tacticians have fielded their strongest eleven available, as a victory would lead to an outstanding silverware for them. Gerardo “Tata” Martino fielded his usual formation of 4-3-3, with Lionel Messi up front accompanied by his best mate Josef Martinez and Robert Taylor. The midfield comprised the seasoned veterans in the form of Spaniard Sergio Busquets, who was assisted by Arroyo and youngster Cremaschi, with the defensive setup having the veterans Kryvtsov and Miller, with Barcelona legend Jordi Alba and De Andre Yedlin on the wingbacks, whose valuable inputs across the wings have been the talk of the town over the past few months.
Nashville, one of the strongest teams to compete for the trophy, has started two of their best stars on the frontal attack, with MLS veteran Harry Mukhtar and Englishman Sam Surridge spearheading the attack, as they were assisted by four of their strong midfielders consisting of Picault, Godoy, McCarty and Muyl, With four more men on the defensive setup, the final was poised for a superb game.
Messi opens the scoring
Messi has created a unique habit of scoring in the first half for his new club, as he scored his 10th goal in the Miami outfit in a meagre 7th match. He started with a classy Messi-esque free-kick on the dying minutes against Cruz Azul, and he has never looked back since. Today, on the 23rd minute of the final, Messi scored a wonder goal, which gave Miami the much anticipated lead, as they inched closer to their maiden silverware. Finnish striker Rob Taylor wanted to go for the goal which was defended well by the sturdy defense of Nashville, but the ball fell to Messi’s feet and he leapfrogged the opponent defense to create magic with his left foot. Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
Fafa Picault pulls one back
Messi and Co. had gone in the half-time with a slender lead of 1-0, courtesy a Lionel Messi banger. But, as it was expected, Nashville SC came will all guns blazing in the second half as they had created a wave of attacks at the Miami goal, but keeper Drake Callender was on his feet, thwarting everything that was thrown at him, but sometimes even the bravest have to bow down to a strong opposition.
On the 57th minute, when Nashville was awarded a corner, Miami had settled with a sturdy defensive wall, but Mukhtar floated the ball inside the box, thus the ball bouncing ahead of midfielder Picault, who restored the parity in the game by nodding a header past Callender. With 60 minutes on the board and match tied at 1-1, the final of 2023 Leagues Cup was evenly poised for a climactic finish.
After the goal of Picault, the “Boys in Gold” dispersed all over the field, with increasing chances of attack, shooting Callender with waves of shots, as they were leaving no stone unturned in achieving a lead. Barely Miami got hold of the ball, but on the 93rd minute, when the match was about to proceed to penalties, Nashville survived a scare as Ecuadorian Leonardo Campana missed a sitter, faltering in front of an open goal, thus ending the match in 1-1, with tie-breakers to commence.
Intense penalty shoot-out
After the match ended. the penalties followed, as it came to the point when the match would come to an end on shoot-out. According to several football pundits, the shoot-out at the final of this tournament will remain inside the hearts of every football fan, as it has seen all, the emotions, the craze when someone scored, the long faces when someone missed- it would be labelled as one of the greatest penalty shoot-outs in recent days.
The star penalty takers from both teams, Messi and Mukhtar, scored the first shot, as there was no fumble or mistake from the seasoned stars. Similarly, all stars followed, and when Miami thought they have won the cup, intense drama unfurled as veteran Ulloa missed his shot, putting in the hands of Nashville custodian Panicco. The first set of five penalties ended in 4-4, with another round of spot kicks to follow.
But, it seemed that none of the players were prepared to give their opponents an inch, as in the second round, all 5 players from both teams scored, thus poising for an intense finish, with goalkeepers starting the next set. Drake Callender, who was one of the stars in the regulation time as he went berserk in thwarting attacks, was about to take the first chance, and he lived up to his expectation of scoring thus giving Miami the lead of 10-9, with Nashville goalie Panicco to follow. It was then when Panicco missed his take, and maybe the trophy, as Callender saved his shot, thus giving Miami its first title in three years.
Lionel Messi- un “leyenda”
Lionel Messi, with this victory in the Leagues Cup, wins the 44th trophy of his career, surpassing ex-Barca mate Dani Alves on becoming the most decorated player of all time. When he arrived in Miami one month ago, it was rumored that maybe he could not thrive on the ‘tough’ American soil. But, as always he does, Messi, the “Little boy from Rosario “pitched up in heaven” once again, as he led David Beckham owned side to their maiden silverware. Miami came in to the tournament with the status of an underdog, as their worst MLS record of 5 wins in 22 games reflected their performance. But, Messi knows how to make a beast out of everyone as his teammates affirmed his positive influence on the squad, thus Miami reached the finals with a “favorites” tag. He scored in each of the seven games he played for the Herons, with his numbers leading to a tantalizingly legendary double figure mark, reaching 10 goals. Today, he wins another trophy and adds one more to his bejeweled collection of silverwares, making him one of the greats of football.
Aging like fine wine, they say!