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Inter Miami Coach Tata Martino Lauds Lionel Messi’s Influence:’Leo’s Presence Transcends Any Situation’

SportsInter Miami Coach Tata Martino Lauds Lionel Messi's Influence:'Leo's Presence Transcends Any Situation'

MONTERREY, Mexico — Lionel Messi’s return to the Inter Miami starting lineup was in vain as his team was eliminated from the Concacaf Champions Cup by Monterrey at BBVA Stadium on Wednesday night.

Miami came into the match trailing 2-1 from the first leg of the quarterfinal, and things only got worse in the second as Monterrey bottled up Messi and scored three goals to win the tie 5-2 on aggregate.

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“The second goal, 15 minutes into the second half, completely eliminated us from the game. That’s where the classification to the semifinal was over for us,” Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino told reporters.

Brandon Vazquez opened the scoring for the home side in the first half in front of a sold-out crowd, and Germán Berterame and Jesús Gallardo added a classy goal each in the second to put the quarterfinal well out of reach.

A visibly frustrated Jordi Alba was sent off late in the second half after receiving two yellow cards for a pair of rash challenges, leaving Miami to finish the game with 10 players.

Diego Gomez headed in a consolation goal for Miami from a Messi free kick before full-time, but Monterrey was firmly in control of the game and held on to advance to the semifinals.

Monterrey will face the lone remaining MLS side in the CCC in the next round when it takes on the Columbus Crew, with the first leg scheduled for April 23.

“Here in the Concacaf Champions Cup, we have competed well. I’d say really well against Nashville, and really well in the first game against Monterrey and good today until Berterame’s goal. That’s when we lost the series,” Martino said.

“Today’s defeat takes away a hope we had, which was to be able to move forward in this competition. The comparison between MLS and Liga MX is useless.”

Messi has been out of Miami’s starting lineup since March 13 with a right thigh injury, although he did come on as a substitute and score a goal in the second half of a draw with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will try to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg when they play Monterrey on Wednesday night for a spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals.

Messi missed last week’s first leg of the home-and-home, total-goals series. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him since a March 13 Champions Cup match against Nashville to play the second half of last Saturday’s Major League Soccer game at Colorado, scoring once in a 2-2 draw.

“He is fine. He felt good after playing 45 minutes last Saturday. We still have today’s practice, but apparently the injury is behind him,” Miami coach Gerardo Martino said Tuesday. “That’s the most important thing. Never mind tomorrow’s match. The season is just beginning for us, and we need healthy players.”
Martino had teased the return of his star on Tuesday in the news conference ahead of the match by confirming Messi’s fitness level, adding that the forward’s injury was behind him.

The World Cup winner with Argentina left Miami’s CCC round-of-16 match against Nashville early in the second half on March 13 with a right thigh injury that also kept him out of a pair of friendlies with the national team.

The MLS side bypassed the initial round of the Champions Cup by winning the inaugural edition of Leagues Cup in 2023, before beating Nashville in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Miami, which is third in MLS’ Eastern Conference, next play a road game against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

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