Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez get the goals, but Inter Miami's defense collapses in loss to Al-Hilal in Riyadh Cup

Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2024 by

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez get the goals, but Inter Miami's defense collapses in loss to Al-Hilal in Riyadh Cup

Inter Miami found the goals that had been missing, but Lionel Messi and co. didn't get the win as their defense fell apart in a 4-3 loss to Al-Hilal.

Al-Hilal were the dominant force of the first half, scoring three goals across the 45 including two in quick succession.

Premier League veteran Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the opening goal, giving the Saudi Arabian side the lead just 10 minutes in. Three minutes later, Abdullah Al-Hamdan added to that lead as Al-Hilal took advantage of their early dominance. Luis Suarez brought Inter Miami back, scoring his first goal in an Inter Miami shirt in the 34th minute, but a 44th-minute goal from Al-Hilal's Michael, and a subsequent Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired celebration, sent Inter Miami into the locker room on a sour note.

The second half, though, was a whole new game as Inter Miami clawed their way back into the match. First up was a penalty from Messi, who netted his first goal of the preseason in the 54th minute. Then, just one minute later, David Ruiz scored a fantastic goal, picking out the near post to level the scoreline at three apiece.

Al-Hilal, though, would get the last laugh. A goal from Brazilian winger Malcom in the 88th minute would seal victory for the Saudi Arabian side, dashing the hopes of Inter Miami after their spirited comeback as they settled for a 4-3 defeat.

Messi and Suarez were both on the scoresheet, which we saw plenty of times during the duo's reign of terror in La Liga. In 258 games together, the two combined for 406 goals together when the other member of that famous duo was in the team.

You generally know what you're going to get from Messi and co., but if Miami can get performances like this consistently from Ruiz? That'll be a game-changer.

Ruiz scored a goal and earned the penalty leading up to Messi's finish, making a major impact on the game. With Benjamin Cremaschi out injury, Ruiz was the young buck in the Miami midfield and he certainly made his presence felt.

The 19-year-old homegrown starlet scored three goals in all competitions last year in his first MLS campaign, and it already seems he's more comfortable in his surroundings heading into Year 2. He won't always crack the XI but, in the moments that he does, Miami will be in a good spot if he can deliver in the way he did on Monday.

It wasn't the best day for Drake Callender, who struggled in net after being so rock solid for Miami last season. He was at least partially at fault for Al-Hilal's third goal as he was unable to get to the ball after coming off his line. He could have done better on the fourth, too, although he did make a great save late on to keep Miami in it.

Generally, his defense let him down in a big, big way, and the hope is that will get cleaned up. Callender, too, will need to be just a bit better, especially with some new faces in front of him.

Inter Miami will remain in Saudi Arabia for one more match, with the second clash being the more anticipated of the two. Lionel Messi and co. are set to face Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr on Thursday, although the status of the Portuguese star remains up in the air due to a recent injury.

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