Lionel Messi scores on Inter Miami return after injury layoff

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By jeenmediaa

Lionel Messi scored just 12 minutes after coming off the substitutes’ bench in his return to action for Inter Miami in a 2-2 tie with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

The Argentina star, who had been out injured since March 13 before coming on at halftime at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, struck a first-time deflected shot in off the post to bring Miami level at 1-1.

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The goal was Messi’s fifth in five games in all competitions this season.

Just three minutes after his effort, Messi played an integral part in Leo Alfonso‘s goal to secure a 2-1 lead over the visitors. Miami, though, couldn’t hold on for the win, with Cole Bassett equalizing for Colorado in the 88th minute.

“The usual [with Messi] in what he provokes in our team, in the rival and in the fans,” Miami boss Gerardo “Tata” Martino said in his postgame news conference. “The most important thing is that he felt comfortable, he felt good and loose playing.

“That’s why it is a shame to let go of two points. I think we continue making errors that make us lose points.”

Messi trained regularly with the rest of the squad ahead of the Major League Soccer clash, but his participation remained undefined 24 hours prior to kickoff.

Messi last played in the 3-1 Concacaf Champions Cup win against Nashville SC before being forced off after 50 minutes with a right hamstring injury.

Following that game, Messi withdrew from Argentina’s roster for the two March friendlies and watched from afar as Miami faced D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and CF Montréal.

Messi also missed the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal match against CF Monterrey on Wednesday.

“Messi’s evolution is exactly as we planned it,” Martino added. “We knew there was a risk for him to play against Monterrey on Wednesday, but it was planned that he would play minutes today. We were between 30 and 45, and he felt good.

“This helps to reach the second leg against Monterrey with more confidence, especially in relation to his injury.”

Miami heads to Monterrey, Mexico, for the return leg on Wednesday down 2-1 from the first match but with Martino hopeful of having Messi involved.

“The idea is that Messi does play on Wednesday,” he said. “But he just played 45 minutes, though we understand the requirements expected from us in the second leg. The most important thing is that he’s back, he felt good, scored a goal and participated in the second. That’s the most outstanding part.”

Despite not being able to take part in the first leg versus Monterrey, Messi was involved in controversy after the final whistle.

A source told ESPN that following Miami’s defeat, Messi angrily approached the Monterrey locker room and began yelling, though the exact reason for the confrontation was unclear.

The Liga MX side confirmed Saturday it had filed a complaint to Concacaf over the incident. However, Martino sought to downplay the matter and whether it would add spice to the rematch.

“I don’t have a comment, the same way we haven’t commented on the situation before, it remains,” he said.

“Revenge, because where I come from, if two games are played, the first is called the first leg, the second is called the revenge. Nothing to do with this whole issue,” Martino continued.

“I’m not even interested in creating anything. We are going to go play a game. If we win, we will continue [in the competition]; and if we lose, we will return home and think about the league. Everything that has to do with this soap opera is not our idea.”

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