Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi works with the ball as...

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi works with the ball as Nashville SC forward Jacob Shaffelburg defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lionel Messi scored twice to increase his Major League Soccer-leading total to seven and also had an assist to lead Inter Miami over Nashville SC 3-1 on Saturday night.

Messi had his second two-goal game in MLS after scoring two against Orlando on March 2. He has a goal or assist in each of the six league matches he’s played, missing four because of injury.

Sergio Busquets scored his first goal with Miami since joining former Barcelona teammate Messi last summer. Luis Suárez, another ex-Barcelona teammate, assisted on Messi’s first goal.

“Very happy that the goal helped the team win the match,” Busquets said in Spanish. “What matters is the team and the victory. Today, I managed to score but the ultimate accomplishments are the positive results for our team.”

Miami (5-2-3, 21 points) is unbeaten in five matches against Nashville since Messi’s arrival. Miami also remained in first place in the Eastern Conference.

“We became very familiar with their style of play and that helped us today,” Miami defender Tomás Avilés said.

For the second consecutive week, Miami allowed a goal in the opening minutes when an own goal by Miami defender Franco Neri put Nashville ahead. Neri deflected Daniel Lovitz’s corner kick into the Miami net in the second minute.

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) runs with the ball...

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) runs with the ball as Nashville SC defender Daniel Lovitz (2) defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

That was the only goal for Nashville (1-6-1, 4).

Miami erased the early deficit with goals from Messi and Busquets in the 11th and 39th minutes.

Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco deflected Messi’s 12-yard shot to an open Suárez, who immediately tapped it to Messi. With Panicco out of position, Messi converted a sliding shot inside the 6-yard box for the equalizer.

“We didn’t play good football during the first 10 minutes but that changed after Leo’s goal,” Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “We started finding our space and created opportunities.”

Inter Miami midfielder Diego Gómez (20) congratulates forward Lionel Messi...

Inter Miami midfielder Diego Gómez (20) congratulates forward Lionel Messi (10) for a goal during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against Nashville SC, Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

Busquets scored the tiebreaker as he headed Messi’s corner kick to the near post past Panicco. It was Busquets’ first goal since 2022, when he was with Barcelona.

Goalkeeper Drake Callender kept Miami ahead when he made a diving deflection of Hany Mukhtar’s 35-yard blast in the 55th minute.

Messi gave Miami a two-goal cushion, converting on a penalty kick in the 81st minute. Nashville’s Josh Bauer fouled Leo Alfonso on the edge of the penalty area then Messi beat reserve goalkeeper Joe Willis inside the right post.

Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba didn’t play because of a hamstring injury. Diego Gomez also exited after he sustained an ankle injury late in the first half. Martino said Gomez will undergo additional tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Miami will visit New England next Saturday, while Nashville hosts San Jose.

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