Messi scores twice, Inter Miami beats Nashville SC 3-1

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice to increase his Major League Soccer-leading total to seven and also had an assist to lead Inter Miami over Nashville SC 3-1 on Saturday night.

Messi, who had his second two-goal game in MLS after scoring two against Orlando on March 2. He has a goal or assist in each of the six league matches he's played, missing four because of injury.

Sergio Busquets scored his first goal with Miami since joining former Barcelona teammate Messi last summer.

Miami (5-2-3, 21 points) is unbeaten in five matches against Nashville since Messi's arrival. Miami also remained in first place in the Eastern Conference.

For the second consecutive week, Miami allowed a goal in the opening minutes when an own goal by Miami defender Franco Neri put Nashville ahead. Neri deflected Daniel Lovitz’s corner kick into the Miami net in the second minute.

That was the only goal for Nashville (1-6-1, 4).

Miami erased the early deficit with goals from Messi and Busquets in the 11th and 39th minutes.

Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco deflected Messi’s 12-yard shot to an open Suárez, who immediately tapped it to Messi. With Panicco out of position, Messi converted a sliding shot inside the 6-yard box for the equalizer.

Busquets scored the tiebreaker as he headed Messi’s corner kick to the near post past Panicco.

Goalkeeper Drake Callender kept Miami ahead when he made a diving deflection of Hany Mukhtar’s 35-yard blast in the 55th minute.

Messi gave Miami with a two-goal cushion when he converted on a penalty kick in the 81st minute. Nashville’s Josh Bauer fouled Leo Alfonso on the edge of the penalty then Messi beat reserve goalkeeper Joe Willis inside the left post.

Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba didn’t play because of a hamstring injury.

Miami will visit New England next Saturday, while Nashville hosts San Jose.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

The Associated Press