Inter Miami Triumphs in Hong Kong XI Clash

Inter Miami secured a convincing 4-1 victory against Hong Kong XI in their first friendly match of the year, breaking a streak of disappointing results. The highlight of the match was a spectacular goal by Robert Taylor, reminiscent of the skills expected from the world’s best players.

Despite the triumph, the focus of attention shifted to the bench, where Lionel Messi was conspicuously absent. The Argentine captain, suffering from a discomfort in the adductor, was not even included as a substitute. This left the fans at the So Kon Po Stadium disappointed, as they had eagerly anticipated witnessing the magic of Messi on the pitch.

Tata Martino, the head coach of Inter Miami, had initially assured that Messi would feature in the match against Hong Kong XI. However, the decision to keep him on the sidelines was explained by Martino, who expressed concern for Messi’s physical condition. “We take it game by game; we didn’t want to take unnecessary risks, considering his discomfort,” revealed the coach.

The absence of Messi and another star signing, Luis Suárez, did little to dampen Inter Miami’s performance. The team, eager to break free from a string of unfavorable outcomes, delivered a resounding 4-1 victory. Goals from Taylor, Sunderland, Campana, and Sailor secured the win, providing a much-needed boost to the team’s morale.

Despite the success on the field, the disappointment echoed from the stands, with the local fans expressing their frustration with chants of “We want Messi.” Some even demanded refunds for their tickets, emphasizing the anticipation and financial investment associated with witnessing the global football icon in action.

Tata Martino, acknowledging the fans’ discontent, issued an apology, stating, “I apologize to the fans, and I understand their disappointment due to Messi’s absence. We would have taken a significant risk (playing him), and his physical issues could have worsened. Hence, we made this decision in consultation with the medical staff.”

Messi’s presence on the bench in Hong Kong raises questions about his fitness ahead of the upcoming Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The coach emphasized the team’s focus on the MLS start date and taking a cautious approach to Messi’s recovery. The next destination for Inter Miami is Japan, where they are set to face Vissel Kobe in another friendly match.

The situation adds uncertainty to Messi’s official debut with Inter Miami, scheduled for February 21 in the MLS season opener. A friendly match against Newell’s on February 15 provides an additional opportunity for Messi to regain full match fitness.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong XI, comprising a selection of players from the local league, showcased their talent against Inter Miami. Despite the loss, the match served as an opportunity for the Hong Kong First Division League stars to gain valuable international experience, with Yapp Hung Fai keeping the goal against the formidable opponents. The Hong Kong XI, known for participating in exhibition matches like the Lunar New Year Cup, continues to contribute to the development of football in the region.

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