Dramatic penalty shootout: Messi sends Inter Miami to US Cup final

Messi’s well-timed assist led to a goal by Campana in the 68th minute. — Twitter

Inter Miami CF displayed remarkable resilience by overcoming a 2-0 deficit and securing a thrilling victory over FC Cincinnati in a penalty shootout on Wednesday night. 

The dramatic clash has paved the way for Inter Miami to advance to the finals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, where they will face off against the winner of the other semi-final match between Real Salt Lake and the Houston Dynamo. 

The US Cup final is set to take place on September 27.

The anticipation surrounding the match was elevated by the presence of Lionel Messi, widely regarded as one of the world’s top soccer players. FC Cincinnati opened the scoring with a goal from their star player, Luciano Acosta, in the 18th minute. Inter Miami responded with determination, as Messi’s well-timed assist led to a goal by Campana in the 68th minute.

As the clock ticked down, the exhilarating encounter saw Messi’s influence grow. In stoppage time, he orchestrated another crucial play, assisting Campana once again to level the score at 2-2. The momentum swung in Inter Miami’s favor during extra time, with Josef Martinez’s goal giving them a 3-2 lead.

However, FC Cincinnati demonstrated their fighting spirit, and Yuya Kubo’s strike in the 114th minute equalised the score at 3-3. With no resolution after 120 minutes, the match headed into a tense penalty shootout.

Both teams performed admirably in the shootout, with each sinking their first four penalty kicks. Messi, who had an instrumental role throughout the match, successfully converted Inter Miami’s first penalty. The pivotal moment came when Inter Miami’s goalkeeper, Drake Callender, blocked FCC’s fifth penalty, taken by Nick Hagglund. This provided Benjamin Cremaschi of Inter Miami with the opportunity to secure the win, which he did with finesse.

The captivating showdown drew significant attention in Cincinnati, attracting a crowd of 25,513 fans to the stadium. The game was graced by the presence of Cincinnati Bengals stars, including quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, who showed their support by donning customized FC Cincinnati jerseys.

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