Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami suffer 5-2 defeat against Atlanta Unitedtext_fields
Inter Miami, without Lionel Messi, faced their first defeat since the Argentine joined the club, suffering a 5-2 loss to Atlanta United, which dented their playoff aspirations on Saturday.
Messi was absent from the Atlanta game, following a busy stretch of matches since his Miami debut in late July.
Coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino explained after the match that Messi was dealing with "muscle fatigue," and it would have been "very reckless to bring him to play this game." While the 36-year-old sat out Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday, he watched his teammates from the bench, reported AFP.
In the previous week without Messi, Miami secured a 3-2 victory against Sporting Kansas City. However, this time, the outcome was drastically different for Martino's team.
Miami took the lead in the 25th minute with a brilliantly executed goal by the in-form Ecuadorian striker, Leonardo Campana.
Yet, Atlanta, ranking sixth in the Eastern Conference, responded emphatically with three goals within eight minutes.
A glancing header from French midfielder Tristan Muyamba, which struck the inside of the post, was deemed to have crossed the line by the assistant referee. Five minutes later, Atlanta seized the lead as Brazilian winger Xande Silva dribbled to the byline, and his pull-back was inadvertently redirected into his own net by Miami defender Kamal Miller.
Miami's defense, without former Spanish international left-back Jordi Alba, was left reeling, and Brooks Lennon added the third with a finely struck shot in the 44th minute.
Miami managed to get back in the game with a Campana penalty in the 54th minute. However, despite their penchant for comebacks with Messi, there was no such resurgence this time.
As Miami pressed forward in search of an equalizer, Atlanta capitalised on the counter, with Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis slotting home his 14th goal of the season, putting him level with Nashville's Hany Mukhtar as the joint top scorer in MLS. Another well-executed counter resulted in the fifth goal in the 89th minute, with Lobjanidze again playing the role of creator, setting up Tyler Wolff for a powerful strike.
Miami remains second to bottom in the Eastern Conference, trailing D.C United by six points, who currently hold the ninth-place spot, the last playoff position.
Martino defended the decision to leave Messi and Alba, who he noted also had muscle fatigue, at home ahead of a busy run of games with league matches scheduled for Wednesday and Sunday, followed by the US Open Cup final on September 27. "We risked worse consequences if they came to play this game. It has nothing to do with the (artificial) surface," stated the coach.