Lionel Messi fires Inter Miami through to the last 16 of the Leagues Cup with a sensational brace as Josef Martinez adds a third from the spot against Florida rival Orlando City

  • 11 months ago
Leo Messi's magical start to life at Inter Miami continued Wednesday as he netted a brace to help his side beat Orlando City 3-1 in the Leagues Cup.

Messi didn't wait long to give Miami the lead in the round of 32 matchups, as he volleyed in a Robert Taylor pass from close range in the seventh minute.

However, the hosts' lead would be short-lived as Cesar Araujo pounced on a loose ball 10 minutes later, quieting a South Florida crowd that once again packed DRV PNK Stadium to see its Argentine superstar.

And while the Argentine delivered another goal later in the match, his most memorable moment of the night may have been an assist - of sorts.

In the second half, Josef Martinez was brought down in the box while chasing a through ball from Benjamin Cremaschi.

And Messi deferred to his teammate Martinez from the penalty spot, allowing the Venezuelan to get on the scoresheet in the 51st minute to restore a 2-1 lead for Miami.

The goal came after Martinez stutter-stepped his way to the penalty spot and was the striker's first since Messi's arrival in South Beach.

From there, Miami was in control the rest of the way, and Messi capped off another devastating move in the 72nd minute to put the game on ice.

The 36-year-old, who now has five goals in his first three Miami games, scored another volley from close range - this time with his right foot - as Martinez teed him up following another accurate cross from Taylor.

While the hot start of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner can't be considered surprising, it's been notable how his teammates have upped their play since his arrival.

Cremaschi, just 18 years old, put in a composed and intelligent midfield performance vs. Orlando, while Taylor continued his scorching run of form, notching his fifth goal involvement in the last three games.

'He just gives everybody confidence around him,' Messi's teammate, full-back DeAndre Yedlin, told Apple's MLS Season Pass after the game.

'You know you can give him balls in difficult situations and he's gonna make something out of it.

'And I think on the flip side of it, the teams that we're playing against, it puts a bit of fear in their eyes so they're on their heels a bit, they're dropping back a bit more and it gives us a little bit more space to play.'

Messi alone may be enough to scare opponents but he arrived in Miami with help.

Sergio Busquets debuted alongside him against Cruz Azul, while another ex-Barcelona teammate, Jordi Alba, made his first Miami appearance vs. Orlando.

Alba entered the match in the 64th minute for Noah Allen and helped Miami see out the final half hour.

With the win, the hosts moved on to the Leagues Cup round of 16, where they'll travel to Texas to face FC Dallas.