Lionel Messi comes off bench to score for Inter Miami on return from injury

Argentine great back in MLS action after being sidelined for a month with hamstring issue

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Lionel Messi marked his return from injury with a goal as he came off the bench to score as his Inter Miami side were held to a 2-2 draw by the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer on Saturday.

The Argentine had been out of action for almost a month with a hamstring injury, missing the last four games, but was named among the substitutes for the home game.

Messi missed Wednesday's 2-1 home defeat to Mexico's Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions Cup quarter-final and with the return game on Wednesday, Inter coach Gerard Martino rotated his squad.

Martino fielded a heavily second-string line-up with Messi's former Barcelona teammates Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba also on the bench.

The youthful starting XI looked comfortable, without threatening too often, but fell behind on the stroke of half-time when defender Ryan Sailor lunged into a rash challenge in the box on Colorado's French forward Kevin Cabral.

The Rapids' Brazilian forward Rafael Navarro drilled home the penalty to give Colorado a 1-0 lead at the break.

Messi was brought on after the interval and made an instant impact.

After just 12 minutes on the field, the Argentine World Cup-winner brought Miami level, firing home off the inside of the post after meeting Franco Negri's low cross from the left.

Busquets was then introduced and Miami took the lead on the hour – Messi bursting forward from midfield, feeding David Ruiz down the right and his cross was coolly converted by debutant Leonardo Afonso.

Messi then brought a fine save out of Colorado's former Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen and then from a tight angle at the back post, struck the woodwork.

But the third goal never arrived and Miami paid the price in the 88th minute when Calvin Harris lead a counter-attack down the right and found Cole Bassett, who slotted home the equaliser.

While Miami were disappointed to have the let two points slip from their grasp, the return to the field of Messi was a boost for Martino ahead of the trip to Monterrey.

"What Leo did is the usual for him, what he provokes in our team, in his teammates, in the people. The most important thing is that he felt comfortable, he felt good, he felt loose," said the coach.

"This will help him to be more confident, especially with regard to the injury, for the second leg in Monterrey," he added.

But Martino was disappointed with the way his team had given up the late goal.

"It is a shame to give up two points, but I think we continue to make mistakes that really make us drop points along the way.

"In the 87th minute, leading 2-1, to be caught on the counter-attack is not usual, it is typical of not having a good reading of the match, of the moment, of not having people looking in front of them, we surely struggle with that," he said.

Updated: April 07, 2024, 1:15 PM