Lionel Messi’s incredible start for Inter Miami CF continued on Wednesday night when he scored twice in a 3-1 League Cup win over hosts Orlando City SC and helped his side progress to the last 16 in the opening competition.
Messi started the game with a bang, deflecting the ball from Robert Taylor into the box and volleying past Orlando’s Pedro Gallese for an early lead and his fourth goal in the League Cup.
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Ten minutes later, Orlando came back into play with a goal from César Araujo. The first half became increasingly heated, with Messi receiving a yellow card and Orlando’s Kyle Smith getting a warning from the referee just before half-time.
A confrontation ensued between the world champion and Araujo that extended beyond the final whistle and into the tunnel, with Messi visibly excited after physically ending the first half.
Josef Martínez drew a foul in the penalty area from Orlando’s Antônio Carlos early in the second half and Messi pushed the ball past his Miami team-mate from the penalty spot, allowing the former Atlanta United forward to do the honors and restore the home side’s lead.
Inter Miami got a scare early in the second half when Orlando’s Mauricio Pereyra collided with Messi. Messi stayed grounded and braced his jaw for a few minutes before getting to his feet.
Miami coach Gerardo Martino brought new signing Jordi Alba to his MLS debut in the 63rd minute as the longtime Barcelona defender met former teammates Messi and Sergio Busquets in South Beach.
Soon after, Messi scored his fifth goal since joining Miami and sealed the win with another close-range volley when Martinez supplied the assist with a deft lob from the six-yard box.
The Round of 32 game was scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. ET but was delayed 90 minutes due to severe thunderstorms in the area. Miami meet FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas on August 6 in the next round, Messi’s first away game since signing with the team.
ESPN writer Ross Devonport contributed to this story.