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Lionel Messi scored a stunning second-half goal and Luis Suarez struck in second-half stoppage time to earn a thrilling 2-2 draw for Inter Miami in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup vs. Nashville SC on Thursday.

It was only seven months ago that Miami beat Nashville on penalties in the Leagues Cup Final, and this one had all the elements of another tournament classic: high tensions, a razor-thin VAR decision and ultimately, the best players showing up in the clutch.

It looked like it would go down as a frustrating night for Messi despite his goal, as he survived a late injury scare, complained to the referee and hotly confronted opponent Anibal Godoy in the second half.

Nonetheless, his teammate and good friend Suarez headed in a 95th-minute equalizer supplied by Sergio Busquets, and Miami now goes into the second leg with a crucial away goals advantage. 

Nashville waited less than four minutes to seize control of the game, with Jacob Shaffelburg hitting a left-footed shot high into the net over goalie Drake Callender.

Luis Suarez strikes at the death to give Inter Miami 2-2 draw vs. Nashville SC, as Lionel Messi keeps hot start to the season going for the Herons

Luis Suarez and his Inter Miami teammates celebrate after he scored a late equalizer

Earlier in the second half, Lionel Messi wheeled away in celebration as he scored

Earlier in the second half, Lionel Messi wheeled away in celebration as he scored

Still, it was a tense night as Messi and Suarez clashed with opponent Anibal Godoy

Still, it was a tense night as Messi and Suarez clashed with opponent Anibal Godoy

Though Shaffelburg completed the move, it was USA defender Shaq Moore who was at the heart of it, driving inside after receiving the ball on the right before picking it up again and feeding his teammate to score.

Nashville soon had a shot saved off the line as well, though the play was ultimately blown dead for offsides.

It wasn’t a great first half for Miami but Messi certainly made his presence felt as he twice came close to scoring.

On the first occasion, he aimed wide from about 12 yards out inside the 13th minute after being supplied by teenager Noah Allen. 

And it wasn’t the first time the pair connected in the half, as a smart ball from the left-back found Messi about 20 minutes later after a dummy from Suarez.

Suarez, land Nashville SC midfielder Alex Muyl (19) go for the ball during the first half

Suarez, land Nashville SC midfielder Alex Muyl (19) go for the ball during the first half

Messi stayed hot for Miami as he scored his fourth goal in four games this season

Messi stayed hot for Miami as he scored his fourth goal in four games this season

Messi was then able to glide past Nashville’s Daniel Lovitz but shot right at goalie Joe Willis – and despite some growing pressure from the visitors, plus a decent attempt from Julian Gressel before halftime – it was Nashville who would strike next.

Less than a minute into the second half, Shaffelburg picked up right where he left off, cutting in from the left before rifling a shot into the top corner for a 2-0 lead.

From there, though, things swung Miami’s way. 

Messi finally got the better of Willis in the 57th minute and curled the ball into the net from the top of the box after a lay-off from Suarez.

And while the visitors eventually tied the game about 40 minutes later, there was plenty of turbulence beforehand.

After Messi saw his shot deflected out for a corner in 67th minute, he confronted Godoy, with his longtime teammate Suarez shoving the opponent. It was unclear why the skirmish started but it ended rather quickly, though Messi continued with some choice words for Godoy.

Later, there was a scary moment for Miami fans in the 77th minute as Messi was caught on the leg by Lukas MacNaughton as the defender followed through with a pass.

Shaq Moore (left) thought he had given Nashville a 3-1 lead - but the goal was called offsides

Shaq Moore (left) thought he had given Nashville a 3-1 lead – but the goal was called offsides

Moore's would-be goal was looked at for a while by VAR and ultimately ruled out

Moore’s would-be goal was looked at for a while by VAR and ultimately ruled out

Messi writhed in pain after being caught by Lukas MacNaughton but remained in the game

Messi writhed in pain after being caught by Lukas MacNaughton but remained in the game

The Argentine went down in pain but remained in the game after receiving some treatment and taking a few sips of water.  

And 10 minutes later, Nashville appeared to have put the game to bed when Moore scored off the right to make it 3-1.

However, after a lengthy look from VAR, it was determined that Moore was offsides in the buildup, and Miami had a sliver of life once again.

One more lifeline followed for the visitors – seven minutes of stoppage time – and Miami needed every bit of it as Suarez sent his team back to Florida smiling.

The Herons’ next game is vs. Montreal in MLS, on Sunday.

The second leg vs. Nashville is on Wednesday. 

‘Knowing that we have 90 more minutes to play at home, I think that we did well. We were calm, we were patient, and we did it simply by playing. It leaves us in a good place for the second round of 90 minutes left to play at home,’ said Inter Miami head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino afterwards. 





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