Lionel Messi scores golazo on Inter Miami return: "He felt comfortable"


Inter Miami CF didn’t return to the win column during Matchday 8. Still, they did receive a massive boost ahead of next week’s Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal second leg at Liga MX giants CF Monterrey thanks to Lionel Messi’s return from injury.

The superstar No. 10, after a nearly month-long absence (hamstring), subbed on in the second half to score a stunning goal and notch an assist in Saturday night’s 2-2 home draw against the Colorado Rapids.

“It’s the usual from Leo, what he provokes in our team, in his teammates, in people,” head coach Gerardo Martino told reporters post-match. “And the most important thing is that he felt comfortable, he felt good, he felt loose.”

Still, Martino couldn’t shake his side conceding an 88th-minute equalizer to Cole Bassett for a result that pushed the Herons down to third place in the Eastern Conference with a 3W-2L-3D record (12 points).

“That’s why it’s a shame to drop two points," Martino said. "But I think we keep making mistakes that are making us lose points along the way.”

For now, at least, all focus shifts to Wednesday’s CCC decider at Estadio BBVA, where the Herons must make up a 2-1 deficit following Wednesday's Leg 1 setback at Chase Stadium. However, Messi’s superb 45-minute shift back from injury is exactly what his teammates wanted to see ahead of their crucial trip to Mexico.

“Obviously Leo’s return gives all of us hope,” fellow Argentine Franco Negri, who assisted Messi’s 58th-minute golazo, told reporters. “Every one of us has to give their all because we have to go out to win on Wednesday.”

Martino is equally optimistic, having had to sit the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner in their previous four all-competition matches: “This helps our confidence, especially considering his injury, for the second leg in Monterrey."

As for whether he plans on having Messi go from the starting whistle at Monterrey, Martino made no secret of his intentions.

“That’s the idea, but he just played 45 minutes and we understand the demands of the game that’s coming,” Martino said. “The most important thing is that he returned, he felt good, he scored a goal and participated in the second.

“I think that’s what's most noteworthy.”