Messi On Target As Miami Rout Philadelphia Union To Reach Leagues Cup Final

Lionel Messi maintained his incredible goal-scoring streak as Inter Miami advanced to the League Cup final with a 4-1 victory against Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.

In an exciting semi-final at Philadelphia’s Subaru Park, the Argentina superstar increased his tally to nine goals in six matches for Miami.

Miami’s other goals came from Venezuelan international Josef Martinez, former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba, and substitute David Ruiz, with Philadelphia’s lone goal coming from Alejandro Bedoya.

As a result, Messi is preparing for his 42nd career final, with Miami facing Nashville SC in Saturday’s final of the World Cup-style event for Mexican and Major League Soccer teams.

Nashville advanced to the final with a 2-0 win against Monterrey on Tuesday and will host the game this weekend.

Meanwhile, Miami was left relishing in a triumph that also qualified them for the CONCACAF Champions Cup regional tournament next season, perhaps opening the door to FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup in 2025.

“Our goal was to qualify for international competition next season and we’ve done that tonight,” said Miami head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

“This most important thing was achieving qualification for Concacaf Champions Cup, and now we have to prepare to win this tournament, which has us feeling very motivated and confident.”

In theory, Miami’s semi-final against Philadelphia was meant to be Messi’s most difficult task since joining Miami from Paris Saint-Germain on July 21.

Philadelphia is one of the league’s strongest clubs, currently third in the Eastern Conference rankings, while Miami is last.

Early Strike

The Union have also been virtually unbeatable at home, with only one defeat in their previous 38 games at Subaru Park.

However, Miami took the lead three minutes after kickoff, leaving the home team in chaos.

A long ball forward from Ukrainian defender Sergii Kryvtsov caused confusion in the Union defense, and Martinez latched onto the pass before shooting past diving Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Five minutes later, Hungary international Daniel Gazdag walked through on goal for Philadelphia, only to shot straight at Miami goalie Drake Callender.

After 19 minutes, Gazdag had another fantastic chance, but his curling shot from the edge of the area went just wide.

If that opportunity buoyed Philadelphia, it was short-lived as Messi struck again to punish poor Union defending.

Martinez turned away from the defender to unleash Messi, who was afforded far too much time and space to shoot a ferocious low strike from outside the area into the bottom corner past Blake.

Philadelphia replied with relentless pressure, and Gazdag tested Callender from long range once more on 29 minutes with a rasping attempt.

Although Union had enough of territory and possession, Miami scored the game-winning goal just before halftime.

Robert Taylor of Finland controlled the ball brilliantly in midfield and took his time before finding the overlapping Jordi Alba.

The former Barcelona great controlled the game and buried a superb goal to put Miami up 3-0 at the half.

In the second half, Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin threw caution to the wind, changing his formation to accommodate an extra attacker.

However, Union blew two golden chances when Chris Donovan rounded Callender on 55 minutes and blasted over the bar.

On 66 minutes, Jakob Glesnes also missed a golden opportunity from close range, shooting over the bar.

In the 73rd minute, Bedoya dashed in from a frantic corner, but Miami snuffed out any hope of a comeback when Ruiz restored the visitors’ three-goal lead six minutes from time.

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