Lionel Messi wills Inter Miami to League Cup quarterfinals with another brace

Lionel Messi scored on another mesmerizing free kick in his third consecutive two-goal game for Inter Miami, a tying tally that led to a 5-4 victory over FC Dallas on penalty kicks in a Leagues Cup elimination game Sunday night.

Messi’s goal in the 85th minute was reminiscent of the game-winner in his Inter Miami debut, both on free kicks from just outside the penalty box in the waning moments and sneaking past the goalkeeper into the upper corner of the net.

This time, the left-footed superstar, was to the right of the net, and beat FC Dallas’ Maarten Paes to the near post the same way he did from the left side in a 2-1 win over Mexican club Cruz Azul in his Inter Miami debut.

The victory in the round of 16 sent Inter Miami into the Leagues Cup quarterfinals against the winner Monday night between Charlotte FC and Houston.

Messi’s first goal outside of Florida for his new U.S. club was another left-footed strike outside the penalty area in the sixth minute, on a pass from former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba. It was initially disallowed on an offsides call that was overturned on review.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup champion for Argentina has scored in all four matches for Inter Miami, with seven goals total.

FC Dallas had gone ahead 4-2 on Robert Taylor’s own goal in the 68th minute, but Dallas gave an own goal right back in the 80th minute. Marco Farfan put a header into his own net on a cross from Messi on a free kick from outside the left corner of the penalty box.

Messi had the first penalty kick with a slow-moving shot into the right corner, and the difference was FC Dallas’ Paxton Pomykal missing over the crossbar on the second attempt. Benjamin Cremaschi, who scored in the 65th minute, had the clincher as Miami finished with a 5-3 edge in the shootout.

Messi had several free kicks in the second half, with each attempt bringing everyone in the sellout crowd of 19,096 to their feet, most of them recording with cell phones.

Facundo Quignon and Bernard Kamungo scored in the first half for FC Dallas to erase the 1-0 deficit from Messi’s early goal.

Alan Velasco, a native of Argentina who grew up idolizing Messi, made it 3-1 with a bouncing free kick that eluded several defenders and keeper Drake Callender for a 3-1 lead in the 63rd minute.

Two minutes later, Cremaschi pulled Inter Miami within a goal to set up the wild finish.

The second of Messi’s three consecutive two-goal games came in the first Leagues Cup elimination game, a 3-1 Miami victory over Orlando City that was delayed by an hour and a half because of a torrential rainstorm in Florida.

The fifth match in Texas in Messi’s illustrious career had a kickoff temperature of 100 degrees (38 degrees celsius) on the 14th consecutive day of triple-digit heat in the Dallas area.

Because of the high temperatures, teams took a heat break near the halfway point of each half.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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