Messi on target but Miami beaten by Al Hilal in Saudi friendly

Miami face Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr in their second friendly in Saudi Arabia on Thursday

By AFP

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Inter Miami's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal. — AP
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal. — AP

Published: Tue 30 Jan 2024, 2:44 PM

Luis Suarez bagged his maiden goal for Inter Miami and Lionel Messi scored a penalty but it was not enough to stop the Major League Soccer side falling to a 4-3 defeat against Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal in Riyadh on Monday.

An 88th-minute header from Brazilian forward Malcom settled an entertaining friendly at the Kingdom Arena after Miami fought back to 3-3 from 3-1 down early in the second half.

The game was the latest leg of Miami's globe-trotting pre-season tour ahead of the start of the Major League Soccer season on February 21.

Former Fulham striker and Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Al Hilal head in the 10th minute, coolly side-footing his finish beyond Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender after a well-worked move that split the defence wide open.

Saudi international forward Abdullah Al-Hamdan made it 2-0 after 13 minutes, punishing a botched clearance from Miami defender Noah Allen.

Sergio Busquets should have pulled a goal back for Miami in the 26th minute but volleyed over from close range with just Al Hilal goalkeeper Hbib Alwotayan to beat.

On 34 minutes though Miami's pressure got its reward. A lofted pass from Jordi Alba over the top caught the Al Hilal defence square, and Julian Gressel latched onto the ball before sliding into the path of Suarez who finished into an empty goal at the far post.

The goal was initially disallowed for offside but a VAR check overturned the offside call and the goal stood.

Al Hilal restored their two-goal advantage a minute before half-time however when Al-Hamdan crossed into the area for Brazilian forward Michael to nod home after Callender rushed off his line.

Miami responded strongly after the break, and drew level with two goals in two minutes soon after the restart.

Messi made it 3-2 from the penalty spot in the 54th minute after Mohammed Jahfali was harshly adjudged to have brought down David Ruiz in the area.

Al Hilal were still regrouping from the penalty when Miami levelled. Messi swept a long pass into the path of Ruiz, and the winger cut in from the left and uncorked a ferocious strike that made it 3-3.

The game seemed destined to end in a draw but Malcolm headed home two minutes from time to seal the win.

Miami face Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr in their second friendly in Saudi Arabia on Thursday before heading to Asia for games in Hong Kong and Japan.

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