Lionel Messi-less Miami crushed in Atlanta
The Manila Times
Inter Miami rested Lionel Messi and suffered their first defeat since the Argentine joined the club, with a 5-2 hammering at Atlanta United damaging their playoff hopes on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). Messi had not made the trip to Atlanta, after a busy run of games since making his Miami debut in late July. Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said after the loss that Messi had been suffering from “muscle fatigue” and that it would have been “very reckless to bring him to play this game.” The 36-year-old sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday but watched his teammates from the bench. With no Messi last week, Miami defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-2 but this time it was a very different story for Martino’s team. Miami went ahead in the 25th minute with a superbly taken goal from in-form striker Ecuadorian striker Leonardo Campana. But the response from Atlanta, sixth in the Eastern Conference, was emphatic with three goals in the space of eight minutes. A glancing header from French midfielder Tristan Muyamba, which struck the inside of the post, was ruled to have crossed the line by the assistant referee. Five minutes later, Atlanta had the lead when Brazilian winger Xande Silva dribbled to the byline and his pull-back was turned into his own net by Miami defender Kamal Miller. Miami’s defense, without former Spain international left-back Jordi Alba, were reeling and Brooks Lennon addied the third in the 44th minute with a sweetly struck shot. Miami got back in the game in the 54th minute through a Campana penalty but while they have made a habit of comebacks with Messi, there was no such revival this time. As they pushed forward in search of an equalizer, Atlanta caught them on the counter with Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis slotting home his 14th goal of the season, bringing him level with Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar joint top scorer in MLS. Another well-worked break resulted in the fifth in the 89th minute with Lobjanidze again the creator, setting up Tyler Wolff to blast home. Miami remains next to bottom of the Eastern Conference, six points behind D.C United who occupy ninth place, the last playoff spot.