Lionel Messi's Stellar Debut: 2 Goals, 1 Assist for Inter Miami

In a remarkable display of soccer prowess, Lionel Messi achieved a brace and contributed an assist in a resounding 4-0 triumph over Atlanta United. This momentous occasion marked the first time that both Messi and Sergio Busquets graced the starting lineup for Inter Miami CF since their arrival in the MLS.

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The duo wasted no time in leaving their mark on the match. Busquets exhibited remarkable finesse by lofting a precise pass over Atlanta's defensive line to find Messi. Although the initial attempt was unsuccessful, Messi capitalized on the rebound to secure a 1-0 lead for Miami within the opening eight minutes.

In the 22nd minute, Messi struck again during a well-executed counterattack, doubling Miami's advantage with a beautiful assist from Robert Taylor, who later added Miami's third goal before halftime in the Leagues Cup clash.

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Following the break, Taylor completed the rout with an assist from Messi, who left the pitch to a thunderous ovation from the home crowd in the 78th minute. Busquets departed six minutes earlier, making way for Victor Ulloa.

Miami's manager, Gerardo Martino, expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance, stating, "It was a good performance and I'm pleased we were able to make our fans happy. The game displayed remarkable performance, signifying progress in the desired direction."

By securing a victory in their group, Miami advanced to the round of 32 in the Leagues Cup and will host a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

Notably, Atlanta became the 100th club against which Messi has scored, a testament to his extraordinary talent and prowess on the field.

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Busquets and Messi shared 13 years of camaraderie as teammates at Barcelona before the latter's move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. Despite the separation, their friendship endured, borne out of a trophy-laden era at Camp Nou.

Busquets remarked on their compatibility, saying, "So many years playing together, so it's very easy to play with him. I'm so happy to be by his side."

Their debut as substitutes in the thrilling victory against Cruz Azul on Friday already showcased their chemistry. It came as no surprise to Martino, who had previously managed both players during his tenure at Barcelona.

Martino astutely observed that these two players possess exceptional skills, enabling them to create ample opportunities on the field.

Miami right-back DeAndre Yedlin expressed how Messi and Busquets' presence brought newfound confidence to the team and even instilled a sense of fear in their opponents. Yedlin acknowledged the challenge of facing these formidable players, highlighting the intensity of the game when they are present.

The match held additional significance as it marked Martino's first encounter with his former club, Barcelona. He had led Barcelona to victory in the MLS Cup in 2018. Messi's appointment as Miami's captain against Atlanta and for future games was confirmed by Martino on June 28.

Regarding the fans leaving after Messi's substitution, Martino offered his perspective, saying, "I didn't really notice. As a globally renowned star, Messi's playing style garners significant attention, attracting fans who may be particularly eager to see him in action. However, he emphasizes the importance of supporters staying until the end to appreciate the team's efforts, acknowledging their enthusiasm while encouraging unity in applauding the collective team's performance."

The storybook saga of Messi's signing with Miami culminated in a trademark moment of magic, as he curled a free kick from just outside the penalty area into the top corner to secure a 2-1 victory against Cruz Azul.

Currently competing in the inaugural Leagues Cup competition against Atlanta, Miami seeks to establish its supremacy in this World Cup-style tournament between MLS and Liga MX sides. Messi may make his official MLS debut at home against Charlotte on Aug. 20.

Jordi Alba, another former Barcelona player who joined Miami on July 20, will have to wait for his debut, as he was not included in Miami's squad list for the game against Atlanta.

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