Miami, Messi crash out of CONCACAF Champions Cup

Mexican side Monterrey sent Lionel Messi and Inter Miami crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Wednesday after completing a 5-2 aggregate victory in their quarter-final clash.

Goals from Brandon Vazquez, German Berterame and Jesus Gallardo sealed a deserved 3-1 win on the night for the Liga-MX side, who advance to a semi-final with Major League Soccer champions Columbus.

Trailing 2-1 after last week’s first leg in Florida, Inter Miami recalled Messi to their starting line-up for the first time since his near-month-long injury absence.

But the presence of the eight-time Ballon D’Or winner was not enough to inspire Inter against a Monterrey side who looked far sharper in all departments.

Inter goalkeeper Drake Callender was forced into action early on, saving smartly after a bullet header by Monterrey’s US international striker Vazquez.

Messi had Miami’s best chance of the first half but he shot over the bar from just inside the area on 25 minutes.

Monterrey took the lead on 31 minutes after Vazquez punished a howler from Callender.

The goalkeeper miscued an attempted pass to Sergio Busquets and found Vazquez just yards from the Miami goal.

The American coolly sent Callender the wrong way and tucked away the finish.

Inter Miami created little of note thereafter, with Messi’s former Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez rightly having a goal disallowed for offside in first-half stoppage time.

On 58 minutes, Monterrey left Miami with a mountain to climb with a fantastic strike from their own Argentine striker Berterame.

After crisp approach play, Berterame jinked clear of his marker on the edge of the area and crashed a thunderous strike into the top corner.

Six minutes later Berterame turned provider, chipping a cross to an unmarked Gallardo, who buried a perfectly timed header past Callender.

A miserable night for Miami ended in acrimony on 78 minutes when former Barcelona defender Jordi Alba was sent off after picking up his second yellow card for a stamp on Gallardo.

Diego Gomez nodded in a late consolation goal for Miami from Messi’s inviting free-kick on 85 minutes.

Miami coach Gerardo Martino said Monterrey’s second goal had killed the tie off.

“We said that even if we conceded the first goal it didn’t change anything because we always needed to score twice,” Martino said. “But their second goal ended the tie for us.”

The CONCACAF Champions Cup is the premier regional club competition for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, with the winner of this year’s tournament earning a place at next year’s expanded FIFA Club World Cup.

Mexican clubs have dominated the Champions Cup since Guadalajara won the first edition in 1962, lifting the trophy 38 times.

Martino warned that MLS clubs would continue to struggle against Mexican teams because of tight salary and spending restrictions for sides in Major League Soccer.

“Until the MLS relaxes the rules to allow teams to have bigger squads and don’t make it so hard to replace players because of injuries and suspensions, Liga-MX teams will continue to have an advantage,” Martino said.


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