Lionel Messi scores twice in Inter Miami starting debut

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After making a dramatic Inter Miami debut off the bench last week, Lionel Messi showed what he can do as a starter on Tuesday.

The Argentinian superstar netted two goals and set up two more as Inter Miami thrashed Atlanta United 4-0 in a Leagues Cup game at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Miami (2-0-0, 6 points) clinched first place in the South 3 Group and is headed to the round of 32 at the in-season tournament that features every team from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX.

Messi’s last-second, free-kick goal lifted Miami to a 2-1 win over Cruz Azul (0-1-0, 0 points) on Friday in the group opener. Atlanta United (0-1-0, 0 points) will play host to Cruz Azul on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the knockout rounds.

Messi needed just eight minutes to put Inter Miami ahead on Tuesday. He took a long pass from fellow Miami newcomer Sergio Busquets and dribbled in alone on a breakaway. Messi rolled a left-footed shot off the far post before calmly tapping in the rebound with his right foot.

In the 22nd minute, Messi took a pass from Robert Taylor 10 yards in front of the net and tapped in another right-footed goal.

Messi helped set up Taylor’s goal in the 44th minute, then got an assist in the 53rd minute as Taylor completed a two-on-one breakaway with his second tally of the night.

The only downside for Miami on the night was Christopher McVey receiving a red card in the 84th minute for a foul in the penalty area. Inter Miami goalie Drake Callender saved Thiago Almada’s subsequent penalty kick.