More Messi magic as Inter Miami storm from two goals behind to survive FC Dallas in penalty shootout

At DRV PNK Stadium or, now, on the road, the venue hasn’t made a difference yet.

In their first road match since adding superstars Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, Inter Miami rolled into Frisco, Texas, overcame a pair of two-goal deficits and booted FC Dallas from the Leagues Cup in penalty kicks.

Messi was magical again, notching a brace for the third straight game with an early goal and then the stunning equalizer late. Two own-goals were also scored in a free-flowing second half, one by each team.

But Inter Miami ultimately converted all five of their penalty kick tries after regulation, sending them through to the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup.

Alba made his first Inter Miami start, replacing Noah Allen at left-back. He immediately made an impact assisting on Messi’s goal in the sixth minute and then recorded a second assist in the second half.

Midfielder Diego Gomez also started for the first time, taking Benjamin Cremaschi’s spot. Cremaschi wasted no time when inserted into the match, scoring immediately and then delivering the penalty-kick winner.

Tickets for the match sold out in a matter of minutes and the jam-packed crowd at Toyota Stadium fought through sweltering temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees at kickoff.

Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was forced to make a phenomenal save in the fourth minute, perfectly setting up the clockwork early goal from Messi.

Inter Miami built up one of their first threats of the match working up the left sideline. Alba centered the ball back toward the top of the box and Messi smacked a one-timer with his left foot into the bottom left corner.

The goal was initially waived off, however, when the side official deemed forward Josef Martinez was in an offside position as Messi’s shot whistled past him. Martinez was in fact behind Dallas’ last defender, but because he had no effect on the play, video review confirmed the goal.

It’s the third match in a row Messi has scored in the opening minutes, each goal coming one minute earlier than the previous one. In his first start against Atlanta United, Messi scored in the eighth minute, and then followed that up by scoring in the seventh minute against Orlando City. He’s now up to seven goals in his first four games with the club. Martinez, for comparison, leads Inter Miami with six goals in 20 regular-season matches.

After making two big consecutive stops on Messi and forward Robert Taylor, FC Dallas got one back in the 37th minute.

A low-hanging cross connected with an unmarked Facundo Quignon to even the score.

Then, Inter Miami found itself trailing for the first time in the tournament just before halftime. Miami was on the attack with many players forward, but a cross was scooped up by Dallas and quickly turned the other way.

Center-back Sergii Kryvtsov sprinted back in recovery, but Dallas’ Jesús Ferreira passed the ball to his streaking teammate Bernard Kamungo. Kamungo busted a move, drove to his right and beat Callender on the near side for the go-ahead goal.

Inter Miami didn’t make any immediate substitutions to start the second half and nearly conceded a third goal numerous times in the first 10 minutes. First, two FC Dallas headers from up close were sent just wide of the net. Then, a Dallas attacker was sprung on a breakaway all the way near midfield, but center-back Kamal Miller made a perfect recovery to pick his pocket.

Dallas extended its lead to 3-1 in the 63rd minute off a set piece, beginning of string of three goals in five minutes.

“We had lots of mistakes,” Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “We didn’t circulate very well, especially in that first hour of the game.”

Cremaschi was subbed in for Gomez following the goal and scored one minute later.

Alba went in on a run and centered a grounder into traffic. Cremaschi found it and smashed into the top of the net to make it 3-2.

“In the 30 minutes that he played, he was very confident,” Martino said of the 18-year-old Cremaschi.

Three minutes later, Taylor scored a brutal own-goal to push Dallas’ lead back to 4-2.

Inter Miami thought they were getting a whistle in the attacking-third when Martinez was knocked off the ball, but no foul was called. Inter Miami stopped playing, while FC Dallas countered with numbers. Taylor sprinted back in recovery, but when a centering ball was put into the box, Taylor slid and deflected the ball easily past Callender and into the net.

Strangely enough, that wasn’t the last own-goal scored on the night.

FC Dallas put one in their own net in the 80th minute on a set piece. Messi took the kick from just outside the box, an out-swinging cross that was headed in by Dallas’ Marco Farfan, almost like they had practiced it a million times.

Inter Miami then won another set piece in the 85th minute from just outside the Dallas box, perfectly in Messi’s wheelhouse. He, of course, took the kick, and placed a screamer into the top right corner to even the score at 4-4.

“Many times there is a free kick in that sector and just with him, it happens that you have the sensation that he is going to score,” Martino said. “A free kick is not something that is going to end up being a goal. 90% of the options is no-goal. But when he has it, it’s a 10% chance that it won’t and a 90% chance that it is (a goal). So, we have to take advantage of that.”

Messi then was given another opportunity in stoppage time with a free kick from a few yards farther from the last one. His left-footed shot, however, was blocked by the FC Dallas defending wall, sending the match straight to penalty kicks.

Messi was first up during the penalty shootout, converting his try. Busquets also scored going straight down the middle. Leonardo Campana, Miller and Cremaschi followed, and Dallas only missed once on a shot well over the net.

“I appreciate the beauty of any victory,” Martino said. “I am capable of appreciating the beauty of a game like this one, but we can’t stop seeing the mistakes that we made.”

Inter Miami will host the quarterfinals at home Friday against either the Houston Dynamo or Charlotte FC.