April 16, 2024

A record crowd of 27,642 packed Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday to get a look at Lionel Messi and they got what they paid for, with Messi scoring in the second minute of stoppage time to give Inter Miami a 1-1 tie with the Galaxy.

Messi’s goal came after Riqui Puig turned the ball over deep in the Galaxy end. Messi and former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba then worked a pair of give-and-goes that ended with Messi sliding to his knees to score from the center of the box.

The score came five minutes after Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado was given a second yellow card and expelled by referee Gabriele Ciampi, a replacement for the regular MLS officials who have been locked out, who allowed it to stand.

Delgado assisted on the Galaxy’s only goal, which came from Dejan Joveljic in the 75th minute. Miami keeper Drake Callender stopped a shot from Puig but pushed the rebound at Delgado who, with the Miami keeper on the ground, fed Joveljic on the other side of the box for an easy tap-in.

The goal had to withstand a lengthy VAR check before Ciampi allowed it to stand.

The Galaxy (0-0-1) had a golden opportunity to go ahead in the early going when defender Sergio Busquets reached out his right arm to pull down winger Joseph Paintsil deep in the box, drawing a penalty. But Callender guessed correctly on Puig’s shot from the spot, diving to his left to push it wide.

Puig was denied by Callender again in the 29th minute, with the keeper going high to get a gloved hand on a shot from the top of the box, pushing it off the crossbar. Miami’s first try didn’t come until the 30th minute when Messi one-hopped a shot from the top of the box that Galaxy keeper John McCarthy batted down with both fists.

Fans take pictures and video of Miami's Lionel Messi before a corner kick against the Galaxy.

Fans take pictures and video of Miami’s Lionel Messi before a corner kick against the Galaxy on Sunday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The rebuilding Galaxy started six players in their season opener who weren’t on their roster at the start of last season. One of those new players, Paintsil, had an impressive debut, torching the left side of Miami’s defense all night.

Callendar made eight saves for Miami (1-1-0).

Ciampi, normally a USL League One official, was embattled all night as he struggled to get control of the match, handing out questionable cautions while allowing some rough play to go unpunished.

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