Inter Miami CF forward Josef Martinez (17) celebrates his extratime goal. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
CINCINNATI – In an epic battle, Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF defeated FC Cincinnati in penalty kicks, 5-4, after playing to a 3-3 draw in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in TQL Stadium on Wednesday night.
Messi helped the visitors overcome a two-goal deficit to set up their first two tallies before converting Miami’s first PK in the tie-breaker.
Goalkeeper Drake Callender saved Cincy’s final attempt by Nick Hagglund before Benjamin Cremaschi converted the game-winner.
“The good thing about all of this is that we didn’t put our heads down, we kept trying, and decided this semifinal. It’s not easy to completely turn a semifinal match around,” Miami head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said. “We’ve been able to overcome many matches, more as a result of the team’s character than its play, and obviously for having the best player in the world with us, and we each take turns to get behind him. The expectations keep growing as we face each challenge, but the exhaustion we have is overcome with the excitement we get from moving on in each stage.”
Miami, which captured the inaugural Leagues Cup crown via penalties on Saturday, will face the winner of the Houston Dynamo, in the Sept. 27 final at DRV PNK STADIUM and broadcast by CBS Sports and Telemundo. Additional broadcast details will be announced at a later date. Houston defeated Real Salt Lake in the other semifinal, 3-1, in extratime.
Cincinnati owned the opening half, grabbing a 2-0 advantage.
Luciano Acosta lifted the hosts into a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute and Brandon Vasquez doubled it in the 53rd minute.
But Miami refused to wilt behind the superb passing by Messi.
First, the Argentine superstar set up Leonardo Campana twice, first in the 68th minute, and then with a dramatic header seven minutes into second-half stoppage time to knot the score at 2-2.
Miami grabbed the lead on Josef Martinez’s goal three minutes into the first extratime period.
Then it was Cincy’s turn to comeback and the host side didn’t disappoint as Yuya Kubo tallied in the 114th minute to send the game into penalty kicks.
Next up for Miami is the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.