‘Messi mania’ swept across New York on Saturday as Lionel Messi made his Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season debut for Inter Miami away against the New York Red Bulls.
However, fans who attended the match had to wait until the 60th minute for the Argentine superstar to enter the game as a substitute with his team already 1-0 up.
The crowd at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey gave the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner a rousing ovation as he walked onto the pitch and, in the 89th minute, they got just what they would have wanted – a goal for Messi.
Surrounded by four defenders, Messi controlled the ball in the box, threaded it through to Benjamin Cremaschi who then simply slotted it back inside to Messi.
With the goalkeeper pulled out of position, Messi prodded the ball into the back of the net from close range, scoring his first official MLS goal and secure a 2-0 win for Inter Miami.
Even fans not in the stadium to witness ‘Messi magic’ in person were able to get a little taste of it. A packed crowd gathered in Times Square to watch the match on the gigantic screens, cheering on as Messi scored.
“Where dreams are made of,” Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said on Instagram afterwards, alongside pictures of Messi, the rest of the team and fans wearing Messi jerseys. “Thank you NYC. Great win on the road.”
With the win, Inter Miami moved from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to 14th place, leapfrogging Toronto FC.
Messi and Inter Miami are next scheduled to play on Wednesday against Nashville SC at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.