Monterrey eliminates Lionel Messi, Inter Miami from Champions Cup soccer tourney

April 11 (UPI) — Mexico’s Monterrey finished a quarterfinal sweep of Lionel Messi and Inter Miami with a 3-1 second-leg win in the Concacaf Champions Cup matchup, eliminating the Herons from the intercontinental soccer tournament.

Brandon Vazquez, German Berterame and Jesus Gallardo scored for the Rayados on Wednesday at Estadio BBVA in Guadalupe, Mexico. Diego Gomez scored for the Herons, who trailed 5-2 in aggregate scoring, including their 2-1 loss in the first leg.

“In the first half, we did very well,” Herons manager Tata Martino told reporters. “We needed a little bit more depth, but we had control of the ball for quite a bit.

“We knew they would go to the space. … We were lacking some depth to manage them. But, I believe it was fair that Monterrey went through.”

More than 53,000 fans attended. Messi, who is dealing with a lingering hamstring injury, made his first start since March 13.

Monterrey will face the Columbus Crew in the first leg of a Champions Cup semifinal April 23 in Columbus, Ohio. The Crew beat Mexican club Tigres 4-3 in a penalty kick session in the second leg of their quarterfinal Tuesday in San Nicolas, Mexico.

Vazquez put the Rayados ahead in the 31st minute of Wednesday’s match, capitalizing off a Herons blunder. Herons goalie Drake Callender received a pass from defender Tomas Aviles to start that sequence. He then attempted to make another pass to his left, but Vazquez intercepted the feed.

The striker finished the play with a shot inside the near post. The Rayados led 1-0 at halftime and doubled the advantage in the 58th minute.

Left back Gerardo Arteaga tracked down a long pass on the left flank to set up that score. He then fired a pass to his right, finding Berterame. The Rayados striker tapped the ball down, touched it to his right and ripped a shot past a diving Callender.

Gallardo scored a third goal in the 64th minute. Berterame assisted that score, which was triggered by another Herons defensive lapse. Gomez attempted a clearance during the play, but Gallardo blocked the kick. The ball then bounced to Berterame, who chipped a pass into the box. Gallardo ran into the area and used his head to flick a shot inside the right post.

A few minutes later, midfielder Jordi Alba received two yellow cards within a 5-minute span, forcing the Herons to play with 10 men.

Despite playing a man down, Messi went on to assist Gomez for the final goal of the night in the 85th minute.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner sent in a deep free kick to start that sequence. The ball sailed into the box. Gomez then hovered into the area, jumped and headed a a shot into the right side of the net.

The Herons will continue their MLS season against Sporting Kansas City (2-1-4) of the Western Conference at 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. They currently sit in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings, with a 3-2-3 record through eight league matches.

The Rayados will face Tigres in a Liga MX match Saturday in Guadalupe. The winner of the Monterrey-Crew semifinal will meet Club America or Pachuca, both of Liga MX, on June 2 in the Champions Cup finale.

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