Messi makes magical start to Miami career with late winner on debut

Messi makes magical start to Miami career with late winner on debut

Messi makes magical start to Miami career with late winner on debut

Lionel Messi has made a Hollywood start to his American adventure, scoring a last-second winner with a curling free-kick in his debut game for Inter Miami.

Deep in the fourth minute of stoppage time, with the Leagues Cup match against Mexican club Cruz Azul standing at 1-1, Messi won a free-kick just outside the box, in perfect range for his famous left foot.

The script had been written and Messi delivered his line perfectly.

The seven-times Ballon d'Or winner took a glance at the position of Cruz Azul goalkeeper Andres Gudino, then put his head down before curling his shot high to the keeper's right and into the top corner to deliver the 2-1 triumph.

The capacity 20,000 crowd at Miami's DRV PNK Stadium went wild, with some fans running on to the field before being apprehended by security. Smoke bombs in Miami's trademark pink went off in the area behind the goal, occupied by the team's most passionate supporters.

"We wanted to start like this by giving these people a victory," said Messi. "We knew that it was very important for us to start this championship in winning fashion and luckily we were able to do it in the end, and I am very happy."

Miami are rock bottom of Major League Soccer and without a win in 11 games in league play, so Messi said the victory was sorely needed.

"It is a huge joy to get this first victory after how we have done in the league," he said. "It is important to start winning, beyond the fact that it is another championship, for confidence it is very good to get victories."

Miami and Major League Soccer hope that the arrival of the Argentine World Cup winner and all-time great will transform the sport and push it into the American mainstream.

If Messi's debut was any guide, the former Barcelona star still has plenty to offer.

Even before his wonderful goal he had looked sharp and alert, his touch belying the fact that until little over a week ago he was vacationing on a Caribbean beach with his family.

Messi became the biggest name signing in MLS's history when he joined Miami after his contract with Paris Saint-Germain came to an end in June.

NBA great LeBron James, reality television star Kim Kardashian and tennis legend Serena Williams were among the stars who turned out.

Many fans were decked out in replica pink Miami shirts with Messi's name and number 10 on the back. Others sported Messi masks and banners, one wore a goat mask in a nod to Messi's Greatest Of All Time status.