Since Argentine star footballer Lionel Messi joined US professional team Inter Miami, the club has suffered its first crushing defeat, 5-2, at the hands of Atlanta United, while the club’s World Cup winner was suffering from weariness and was unable to join.
Lionel Messi was thought to be unwell due to a busy schedule since making his Miami debut in late July, according to AFP.
The 36-year-old sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday but stayed on the bench to watch his teammates.
After scoring the game-winning goal against Ecuador on September 7, the international star was substituted in the last minutes, but there have been no reports of an injury.
Miami overcame Sporting Kansas City 3-2 without Messi last week, but it was a different story this time for Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s club.
Miami took the lead in the 25th minute on a spectacular goal from in-form Ecuadorean attacker Leonardo Campana.
Campana chested the ball down, lost Miles Robinson with a brilliant touch, and then volleyed home with his left foot after Dixon Arroyo’s attempt hit the crossbar.
Atlanta, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference, responded emphatically, scoring three goals in eight minutes.
The assistant referee determined that a glancing header from French midfielder Tristan Muyamba, which touched the inside of the post, had crossed the line.
Atlanta took the lead five minutes later when Brazilian winger Xande Silva dribbled to the byline and his pull-back was deflected into his own net by Miami defender Kamal Miller.
Miami’s defense was reeling in the absence of former Spain international left-back Jordi Alba, and Atlanta’s frenetic assault took full advantage, with Brooks Lennon adding the third in the 44th minute with a brilliantly hit effort after being set up by Caleb Wiley.
The flurry of goals gave Miami enough to think about at halftime, and they came out strong, scoring in the 54th minute.
Referee Jair Marrufo pointed to the spot after Tomas Aviles’ shot struck Atlanta defender Luis Abram’s arm, and Campana’s calm strike sent Brad Guzan the wrong way.
In the Messi era, Miami developed a practice of second-half comebacks, but without the influence of the former Barcelona ace, they were unable to build consistent momentum.
Atlanta caught them on the counter as they surged forward in pursuit of an equalizer.
Georgian substitute Saba Lobjanidze set up Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who tucked home his 14th goal of the season, tying him with Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar as the league’s joint leading scorer.
Another well-worked quick break culminated in the fifth goal in the 89th minute, with Lobjanidze creating the opportunity for Tyler Wolff to blast home.
Miami is still in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, six points behind D.C. United, who is in ninth place and the final playoff slot.
Earlier in the day, the ‘Hudson River derby’ between New York City and the New York Red Bulls concluded in a goalless draw.
Later same day, Los Angeles FC hosts cross-city rivals LA Galaxy in a derby, while the Philadelphia Union hosts Eastern Conference leaders Cincinnati.