Lionel Messi, aged 36, netted in the fourth minute of added time, securing victory for his Major League Soccer team in the Leagues Cup tie.
The crowd of 20,000 included notable figures such as LeBron James from basketball, Serena Williams, a tennis legend, and US TV star Kim Kardashian.
Messi expressed, “We aimed to commence in this manner by granting these individuals a triumph.
We were aware of the significance of starting this championship on a winning note. Fortunately, we achieved it in the end, and I am extremely delighted.”
As Messi’s goal was celebrated, smoke bombs in Miami’s pink hue were released behind the goal at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, prompting some fans to rush onto the pitch. Security swiftly led them away.
The festive atmosphere continued from Sunday when Messi was officially introduced to fans in front of another full-capacity crowd in South Florida.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or recipient only trained with his teammates for the first time on Tuesday after joining Major League Soccer after the conclusion of his contract with Paris St-Germain.
During his two-year tenure with the French champions following his departure from Barcelona, Messi scored 32 goals in 75 matches.
He declined lucrative offers from other nations to play in the MLS.
This marked his first appearance for a non-European club side. Notably, he was accompanied by former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, both entering as part of a triple substitution in the 54th minute.
Spain defender Jordi Alba has also made the move from the Nou Camp and will be eligible to participate in the Leagues Cup against Atlanta United on Tuesday.
This cup competition, featuring teams from MLS and Mexico’s LIGA MX, signifies a fresh start for Inter Miami, currently at the bottom of the MLS table without a win in 11 games.
Messi and the rest of the bench celebrated Robert Taylor’s 44th-minute opener for the home team, but Cruz Azul’s Uriel Antuna deviated from the expected script by equalizing with 25 minutes remaining.
However, the Argentine World Cup victor delivered a Hollywood ending. In the final seconds, Messi was fouled by Carlos Salcedo just outside the box, setting up a free-kick within the ideal range for his renowned left foot.
He executed flawlessly, curling the ball high to the right of goalkeeper Andres Gudino and into the top corner.
Reflecting on the victory, Messi added, “It is an immense joy to secure this initial triumph, considering our performance in the league.
Beyond being another championship, it is crucial to begin winning for the sake of confidence.”