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Lionel Messi scores in injury time, and Inter Miami salvages a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy

Sun, Feb 25, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Lionel Messi scores in injury time, and Inter Miami salvages a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Lionel Messi scored in the second minute of second-half injury time off a pass from Jordi Alba, and Inter Miami salvaged a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night.

Dejan Joveljic scored in the 75th minute for the Galaxy, who were close to delivering a surprising early-season blow to Messi and his new MLS powerhouse before the Argentine superstar worked another bit of magic with LA down to 10 men.

After executing a give-and-go pass sequence with Alba, his longtime Barcelona teammate, Messi slid forward and chipped a shot into the roof of the net above Galaxy goalkeeper John McCarthy.

The goal electrified the raucous crowd at Miami's first road game of the season. Thousands of fans wore Messi shirts among the 27,642 in attendance - a record for a Galaxy regular-season match at their suburban stadium.

READ MORE Lionel Messi gets an assist, Inter Miami opens MLS season with 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake MLS Commissioner Don Garber says league is 'very prepared' to deal with referee lockout Major League Soccer kicks off with all eyes on Lionel Messi & Co. at Inter Miami

Inter Miami is a major betting favorite to dominate MLS this season after uniting Messi and Luis Suarez alongside fellow ex-Barca stars Sergio Busquets and Alba. Miami won its season opener at home last Wednesday, but was frequently outplayed by the rebuilding Galaxy four days later in Messi's first appearance against the club that once employed Inter co-owner David Beckham.

The Galaxy are famous for the type of high-profile veteran signings amassed by Miami in the past year, but the LA club is rebuilding without big names this time.

The young Galaxy applied more consistent offensive pressure than the league's new showcase team, racking up 23 shots to Miami's 11 while repeatedly generating chances in the box. Miami responded with physical defense, but couldn't put together a consistent attack despite Messi's playmaking up front.

After generating better chances and controlling possession for much of the night, the Galaxy finally broke through late in the second half. Miami's Drake Callender made a diving save on Riqui Puig's shot, but Mark Delgado controlled the rebound and passed to a wide-open Joveljic for a tap-in goal.

Delgado was sent off with a second yellow card for a highly debatable foul in the 87th minute, and Messi had a golden opportunity two minutes later when Alba found him with a pass at the top of the Galaxy penalty area. The superstar's shot flew wide left, leaving him rubbing his forehead in disappointment.

With another chance four minutes later, Messi didn't miss.

The stadium south of downtown Los Angeles was packed and roiling with excitement two hours before Messi's first game against the Galaxy, a five-time MLS champion franchise long known as the preferred destination for superstars of Europe looking for a new home after reaching their mid-30s.

Beckham, who catalyzed MLS' growth with his move to the Galaxy in 2007, has a statue outside the team's stadium. He's also a primary reason for Inter's ascent to the role long occupied by the Galaxy, which employed the likes of Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic late in their careers.

The excitement around this match was a thrill for MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

"It sort of represents everything we wanted this sport to be, and have worked so hard for so many years," said Garber, who met with Beckham and Galaxy owner Phil Anschutz before the game. "Everybody is working hard to build on this momentum. ... To me, this is very much about where we were in 2007 and where we are today."

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/soccer

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