Monterrey beats Messi and Inter Miami to advance to the CONCACAF semifinals

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

Brandon Vazquez, Germán Berterame and Jesus Gallardo scored goals and Monterrey beat Inter Miami 3-1 on Wednesday night in the second leg of the two-game, total-goals series to secure a spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals.

Vazquez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, Berterame added a goal in 58th and Gallardo sealed the win in the 64th as Monterrey advanced to the next round with a 5-2 aggregate score.

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

“As a coach, I’m happy to eliminate a great team. Gerardo (Martino) and Leo are a great coach and player who are recognized worldwide,” Rayados coach Fernando Ortiz said. “We have the satisfaction to win the series, but we are thinking of Tigres,” Monterrey’s next opponent in the Mexican Clausura.

Before the series, Ortiz said that he was confident of his team’s talents, but was afraid 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.”

Messi, who played two exhibition matches in Mexico in 2011 and one in 2006, missed the chance to lead Miami to its first semifinals in this tournament.

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

Messi, the 36-year-old Argentinian, 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, the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him since a March 13 Champions Cup match against Nashville to play the second half of last Saturday’s Major League Soccer game at Colorado, scoring once in a 2-2 draw.

Monterrey, the team with the highest payroll in the Mexican league, will take on the Columbus Crew in one of the semifinals. America, the reigning champion in Mexico, will play against Pachuca in the other. Pachuca beat Costa Rican club Herediano 2-1 on Wednesday to advance.

Monterrey is trying to advance to its first final since in 2021, when it won its fifth CONCACAF title.

Inter Miami finished the match with 10 men because Jordi Alba received a red card in the 78th minute.


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