Inter Miami crash out of Champions Cup after 3-1 defeat to Monterrey

Lionel Messi’s first trip to Mexico for an official match did not end well.

Monterrey beat Inter Miami 3-1 on Wednesday night in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup quarter-finals, the Concacaf equivalent of the Champions League. Goals from Brandon Vazquez, Germán Berterame and Jesús Gallardo were enough to eliminate Miami 5-2 on aggregate.

Diego Gómez scored Miami’s only goal in the 85th minute. Messi started the match, but had just one chance in the first half.

“As a coach, I’m happy to eliminate a great team. Gerardo [Martino] and Leo [Messi] are a great coach and player who are recognized worldwide,” Monterrey coach Fernando Ortiz said. “We have the satisfaction to win the series.”

Related: Monterrey coach apologises after calling Messi ‘possessed dwarf’

Before the quarter-final, Ortiz said that he was confident of his team’s talents, but was worried that the referees could be influenced by Messi’s presence.

“I said that we were going to beat them, not for a lack of respect for Miami, just because I thought that my players would understand what needed to be done,” Ortiz said. “To me, Leo is the greatest player of all time, I did not mean to offend anyone, I just gave an honest opinion.”

Monterrey’s assistant coach, Nico Sánchez, issued an apology earlier in the week after audio leaked of him calling Messi a “possessed dwarf” and saying Messi had “the face of the devil” after an altercation in the first leg in Miami.

Messi, who played two exhibition matches in Mexico in 2011 and one in 2006, missed the chance to lead Miami to their first semi-final in the tournament.

“Today’s defeat takes away the illusion that we have to keep moving forward in this competition,” Miami Coach Gerardo Martino said.

Messi won the Leagues Cup last summer and was trying to win his second tournament since he signed with Miami a year ago.

“We’ve competed well in the first game against Monterrey and in this one we did until Berterame’s goal, that’s when the series ended,” Martino said.

Messi returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him since 13 March to play in the second half of an MLS game at Colorado last weekend, scoring once in a 2-2 draw.

Related: With Luis Suárez, Messi may not even be the best player on his own team

Monterrey, who have the highest payroll in the Mexican league, will take on the MLS’s Columbus Crew in one of the semi-finals. Club América, the reigning champions of Liga MX, will play against Pachuca in the other. CF Pachuca beat Costa Rican club CS Herediano 2-1 on Wednesday to advance.

Monterrey are trying to advance to their first final since in 2021, when they won their fifth Concacaf title.

The first leg between Monterrey and Miami ended in a heated exchange after the MLS side complained about the number of cards they were shown. Inter Miami finished the second leg with 10 men after Jordi Alba received a red card in the 78th minute.

Despite falling in the quarter-finals, Miami are still eligible to play in the 2025 Club World Cup. The expanded version of the competition, which brings together the winners of continental titles from Europe, Asia, Africa and North and Central America, will be played in the US.

The updated format will also include teams who qualified based on a new Fifa points system and one wildcard team from the US as the host nation, though Fifa have yet to say how the spot will be allocated. “Further details [will be] provided in due course,” Fifa said in a statement in December 2023.

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