NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lionel Messi scores the first shot on penalty kicks in Saturday night’s League Cup final.
Messi scored for the 10th time in seven games since joining Inter Miami — in the League Cup — and converted in the 23rd minute.
A pass from teammate Robert Taylor was intercepted and the ball landed at Messi’s feet. Messi got past Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman and unleashed a curling shot from outside the penalty box into the top left corner of the goal. Diving goalkeeper Elliot Panico had no chance to save the ball.
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Messi wasn’t particularly influential before he scored, and the crowd cheered him every time he touched the ball. But the stadium roared with joy when the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored to lead Argentina to the World Cup crown last year.
Nashville tied the game in the 56th minute when a corner kick by Fafa Bigault deflected past Miami’s Benjamin Gremachi and into goalkeeper Drake Callender’s net.
Messi had a shot from the spot in the 71st minute, but it hit the post as the teams drew 1-1.
Miami striker Leonardo Campana had a chance to win the game on the last play of regulation, but his sliding shot into an open goal hit the post. Messi held his head in his hands as the ball went out of play.
Messi calmly converted the first shot on the penalty and it was Calender who scored the go-ahead PK and clinched the title.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of our first win in the finals,” Callender said. “It’s so strange. So emotional. This group works so hard day in and day out to put on a show like this on a night like this. And to see it through to the end was amazing. Just the grit, the belief in what we can do. It’s something special and I’m in it. I’m privileged to be a part of it.”
Callender said he tried to stay as calm as possible through 11 rounds of penalties.
“I have to focus, breathe and stay as calm as possible,” he said. “I mean, this atmosphere here tonight was electric. So I just embraced the moment and believed in the work I put in and the work I did before and after that moment and it went our way.”
Messi’s frenzy gripped Music City after Nashville SC advanced to the final against Miami with a win over Monterrey of the Mexican League on Tuesday. Ticket prices rose after they went on sale the next day, but fell somewhat in the days leading up to the game. The cheapest seats cost several hundred dollars more. 30,109 people gathered at Geodis Park.
Nashville’s Reese Witherspoon brought out the game ball and two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo took some shots on goal before the game. Both are minority owners of Nashville SC.