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Messi and Suarez net brace each as Miami hit five past Orlando

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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored two goals each as Inter Miami turned on the style, hammering Orlando City 5-0 in Major League Soccer on Saturday.

Florida rivals Orlando finished second in the Eastern Conference last season and have been considered contenders for this season’s MLS Cup but they were outclassed by Miami from the outset.

    Keeping the momentum going ✅

    Read more about tonight’s match here: https://t.co/od3jDt5DKm pic.twitter.com/O3LVdNnlHh

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    — Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) March 3, 2024

Suarez had lacked sharpness and match fitness in his first two outings but the prolific 37-year-old top scorer for Gremio in Brazil last season put aside any doubts about his continuing ability in the final third.

“I’m very happy for him, that he was able to score. We were calm anyway, we know what Luis is and what he is capable of doing and everyone knows it,” Messi said.

    5⃣ goals and3⃣ points at home ✅#MIAvORL pic.twitter.com/P2pVt96Lbi

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    — Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) March 2, 2024

“He is like that, when you least expect it he solves a game for you like he did today, with the goals and the assists.”

Suarez took just four minutes to get Miami on the scoreboard and his first goal for his new club came in emphatic style, meeting a low cross from Julian Gressel with a thumping first-time shot inside the near post.

Seven minutes later and Suarez had doubled his tally with Gressel again the provider to the Uruguayan, who showed good close control in the box before burying into the corner.

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Miami were in total control and the crowd lapped up some delicious touches from Messi but it was his former Barcelona teammate Suarez who was doing the damage.

Robert Taylor made it 3-0 in the 29th minute after the excellent Gressel split the Orlando defenders, finding Suarez, who unselfishly picked out Taylor for a simple tap-in.

Messi then struck a trademark, curling free-kick from 30 yards out against the upright and minutes later he provided a classy through ball to Suarez, who found the net. But his hopes of a hat-trick celebration were denied by an offside flag.

Orlando came out aggressively after the break, seeking a possible way back into the game and they were frustrated when Martin Ojeda’s effort was ruled out for offside.

BACK IN THE GROOVE

Miami quickly found a groove, Messi firing inches wide in the 54th minute and then Gressel blasting against the bar after a clever exchange with Suarez.

Another of Miami’s ex-Barca quartet, left-back Jordi Alba, created the fourth when he burst down the flank, played a one-two with Suarez and clipped the ball goalwards.

Orlando captain Robin Jansson’s desperate clearance flew out off the bar and Messi was on hand to put the ball home.

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Suarez looked keen for his hat-trick but, when found in space in the inside left channel, he looked up and spotted Messi at the back post and found him with a perfectly weighted left-foot cross, which the Argentine headed into the far corner.

Miami, with seven points from the opening three games, return to action on Thursday against Nashville in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Read Also: Nwabali resumes in earnest as Chippa draw with Stellenbosch

“We’re doing well, we’re enjoying it, we’re growing,” Messi said. “Today was an important match to win, to continue on this path of growth and this has to make us very strong for everything that’s to come.”

Earlier, defending MLS champions Columbus Crew were held to a 1-1 draw at unfancied Minnesota United.

Colombian striker Cucho Hernandez put the Crew ahead with a strike from the edge of the box in the 58th minute but Minnesota snatched a point deep in stoppage time through Tani Oluwaseyi.

MLS 2023 runner-up Los Angeles FC fell 3-0 in snowy conditions at Real Salt Lake, with Andres Gomez delivering a brace for the home side.

The game was played on a snow-covered field and LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo was fuming with the decision to let the game go ahead.

“It was an absolute joke we had to play today. It was one of the worst professional sporting events I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

“I feel terrible for the players that we put them through this. The game could have and should have been called (off). In my opinion, it was an absolute disgrace we had to play today.”

The Los Angeles Galaxy enjoyed 3-1 win at San Jose in their all-Californian clash.

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