Messi plays through a scare, Inter Miami rallies past Montreal 3-2 for fifth straight win

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Inter Miami's Lionel Messi (10) pushes forward as CF Montreal's Fernando Alvarez (4) and Samuel Piette (6) defend during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) © Provided by The Associated Press

ONTREAL (AP) — Lionel Messi played the entire game despite a first-half injury scare, Benjamin Cremaschi broke a tie in the 59th minute and Inter Miami overcame an early two-goal deficit to beat Montreal 3-2 on Saturday night for its fifth consecutive Major League Soccer victory.

Luis Suarez got his 11th goal of the season for Inter Miami, and Matías Rojas scored off a free kick. Jules-Anthony Vilsaint and Bryce Duke scored for Montreal (3-5-3).

Inter Miami (8-2-3) extended its unbeaten streak to seven matches (5-0-2) despite Messi being held without a goal or an assist for the first time in his nine MLS appearances this season. Inter Miami is 7-0-2 in those nine games; one of its losses came against Montreal in March, a game where Messi didn’t play.

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi, left, gets by CF Montreal's Fernando Alvarez (4) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi, left, gets by CF Montreal’s Fernando Alvarez (4) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press

Playing in Canada for the first time, Messi briefly left late in the first half after some sort of issue with his left knee after being fouled by defender George Campbell. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner as the world’s best player went down immediately, holding his knee and writhing in pain.

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi plays a pass during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against CF Montreal on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi plays a pass during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against CF Montreal on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press

Inter Miami’s medical staff went onto the field to treat Messi, who got up after about two minutes and walked to the Miami sideline. He was not subbed out, which allowed him a chance to return moments later.

And for whatever reason, the match changed in that moment.

Lionel Messi fans hold up a sign before the Inter Miami's MLS soccer match against CF Montreal on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lionel Messi fans hold up a sign before the Inter Miami’s MLS soccer match against CF Montreal on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press

Inter Miami was down 2-0 when Messi got hurt; it was 2-1 when he returned and tied moments after he got back onto the field. Rojas scored off a free kick — one that Messi would have ordinarily taken — to get Inter Miami on the board, and Suarez tapped in a goal off a corner kick late in first-half stoppage time.

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi runs during warmups for the team's MLS soccer match against CF Montreal in Montreal, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi runs during warmups for the team’s MLS soccer match against CF Montreal in Montreal, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press

Suarez became the third player in MLS history to score 11 goals in his first 800 minutes of a season, joining Mamadou Diallo (11 in 2000) and Ola Kamara (11 in 2021).

The go-ahead goal came when Rojas sent a ball into open space and Cremaschi ran it down — then made a second effort to nudge the ball just clear of two defenders and into the net for a 3-2 lead. Messi had two chances in the final minutes to extend the lead, both narrowly missing.