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Miami, without Messi, falls 2-1 in first leg to Monterrey

FORT LAUDERDALE, United States -- Inter Miami, without Lionel Messi, lost 2-1 at home to Mexico's Monterrey in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions Cup quarter-final on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) with Argentine Jorge Rodriguez scoring a superb 89th-minute winner.

Miami had taken the lead through defender Tomas Aviles in the 19th minute but the game changed when Inter midfielder David Ruiz was sent off in the 65th minute.

Maximiliano Meza equalized four minutes later and then Jorge Rodriguez grabbed the late winner with a superb curling shot into the far corner.

Monterrey, level atop Mexico's Liga MX, will be strong favorites to advance to the last four of the regional tournament when they host the return game next Wednesday.

Miami will be hoping to have Messi fit for the second leg after he was again forced to sit out due to his hamstring injury.

Messi has missed Miami's past three MLS matches with the right hamstring injury but practiced on Tuesday morning, prompting suggestions he might be healthy for the first time since helping Inter reach the quarter-final by beating Nashville on March 13.

Against arguably the strongest opponents the Florida club have played, Inter coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino set his team up in a defense-minded 4-5-1 formation with veteran Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez as the lone forward.

It proved to be a prudent approach with Miami's five-man midfield able to frustrate Monterrey and then look to break on the counter.

But the breakthrough came from a corner, whipped in low by Julian Gressel and met with a first time shot from Aviles which whistled home.

The Mexican struggled to break down Miami until Ruiz lashed out with his arm at the head of Meza right in front of the referee, who wasted no time in producing a second yellow card and the inevitable red.

Monterrey made the most of the numerical advantage and it took just four minutes for them to draw level when Sergio Busquets deflected a corner towards his own goal, 'keeper Drake Callender parried out but Meza was on hand to fire home the loose ball.

It was backs against the wall from then for Miami as they tried to hang onto the draw, but as they tired mistakes began to