Sports

Without Messi, Inter Miami unravels late, falls 2-1 to Monterrey in Champions Cup

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — (AP) — Lionel Messi remained sidelined with a hamstring injury Wednesday night as his Inter Miami team built a one-goal lead against Mexico's Monterrey then came unraveled in the second half, losing 2-1 in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal.

Messi, who missed his fourth straight game because of a right hamstring injury, has not played since March 13, and also missed Argentina’s exhibitions last month against El Salvador and Costa Rica.

It isn't yet clear when the 36-year-old Messi will return. Inter Miami and Monterrey are scheduled to play the second leg of the quarterfinal in Mexico on April 10. Inter Miami will also play an MLS match against Colorado on Saturday.

"Every day he's feeling better. It would have been too much of a risk today,” Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said through an interpreter after the match. He added that Messi will continue to be game-to-game.

Monterrey's Jorge Rodríguez broke a 1-1 tie in the 89th minute Wednesday when he sent a shot into the top right corner past goalkeeper Drake Callender after a sloppy pass by Miami's Diego Gómez, spoiling a strong first half from Inter Miami in its toughest match of the season.

Tomas Avilés tapped in Miami's only goal off a corner kick by Julian Gressel in the 19th minute. It was the 19-year-old Avilés' first goal of the season and came during a stout first-half defensive effort that held Monterrey at bay.

But Inter Miami came unraveled after David Ruíz received a second yellow card and was sent off for unnecessary contact in the 65th minute. Miami played the final 25 minutes of the match down a man.

Monterrey quickly took advantage, tying the score less than five minutes later on a goal from Maximiliano Meza, who shot past Callender on a second attempt after a corner kick by Sergio Canales.

“The first thing is that we didn’t have enough legs to do the last 20 minutes,” Martino said. “And playing against a team like Monterrey, you have to be in very good physical shape. ... It seemed that we were going to have moments in the game in which we would be dominated, we didn’t suffer it as much as I thought, but when you have to do the last 20 minutes with one player short, that became a problem.”

Callender had seven saves, while Monterrey's Esteban Andrada had one.

Miami's Robert Taylor left with an injury after going down and grabbing his leg in pain in the 36th minute.

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AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer

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