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Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez absences ‘difficult’ for Inter Miami – Afonso

Afonso has two goals in eight MLS 2024 appearances

Lionel Messi playing football for Inter Miami

Inter Miami hero Leo Afonso called Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez’s absences for the 2024 Copa America “difficult” after scoring an added-time winner in their 2-1 MLS victory at Philadelphia.

Argentina captain Messi and Uruguay forward Messi have each scored 12 times for Miami this season, while the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner has also produced 13 assists.

Without the potent pair, Inter fell behind to a third-minute Mikael Uhre goal at Subaru Park on Sunday, although Julian Gressel equalised two minutes after the break.

David Ruiz and Tomas Aviles were both sent off for the visitors, who recovered to win for the first time in three matches through Brazilian Afono’s 94th-minute strike.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s hard to put words to it but it’s amazing. Just being here, I feel so blessed and thankful.

“I’m so excited to get a goal in an important game, with two men down, on the road. It’s difficult when you’re missing the best players in history in their positions. But we got to keep working and we got to try our best. That’s what we did tonight.”

Inter Miami v Philadelphia: ‘Lessons learned’

Afonso’s impressive solo run from just beyond the halfway line and composed finish leaves Inter top of the Eastern Conference by two points.

Messi, Suarez and attacking midfielder Matias Rojas, who plays for Paraguay, may not return until after the Copa America final on July 15.

“It is clear that in 10 times, nine of these games we would end up losing,” Miami head coach Gerardo Martino said of the situation his players had faced.

“And we not only had the possibility of holding on to the 1-1 scoreline, but we were also able to score the second goal with nine players.

“Absolutely all the credit belongs to them. That has to do with the effort, with the character, with the guts that the boys had.

“I believe that the good of these results for the group is that, to win a game with two fewer players… they [learn how they] can overcome [obstacles] in a better way.

“Had it been a defeat, they would be more criticised; their self-criticism would have been much greater. In this case, since there was a win, we can be a little bit more calm. There are lessons learned from the kind of mistakes that generally make you lose the game.”

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Ben Miller

Ben has more than 10 years' experience in sports journalism, covering two EURO tournaments, European club competitions, the Premier League, EFL and WSL and a variety of other major sporting events.