Melbourne Victory 1 Yokohama Marinos 0
Melbourne Victory took an early lead and withstood a barrage from Yokohama Marinos to win by that single goal scored by Kosta Barbarouses on Tuesday night at the rectangular stadium.
As has been the case in all three Asian Champions League matches Victory found it very difficult to break out of their own defensive area against quality opposition. But this time a combination of a some very poor finishing by the visitors, some luck and sterling defence by former skipper Adrian Leijer and keeper Lawrence Thomas in particular saw Victory emerge with the win. Thomas had by far his best game in goals making a number very brave saves at the feet of opponents and making sure that his clearing punches went well out of the danger area. Leigh Broxham led the team and ran the midfield. He has matured into an excellent player and his substitution in the second half to give Mark Milligan a run was surely just to rest Broxham who has been ever present in Victory’s crowded recent program.
The only goal came after just nine minutes in virtually the home team’s first concerted attack. The ball was won in midfield and transferred forward by Jimmy Jeggo and Rashid Mahazi allowing Barbarouses to sprint clear and finish through the legs of Tetsuyo Enemoto in the Yokohama goal. Fabio fired a long shot just over the top after Yokohama tested the Victory defence with a series of three corner kicks, while James Troisi was also too high with his finishing when Victory played the ball across the park during a multi-pronged attack.
Yokohama began the second half with some sustained pressure and Yuhei Sato shot just wide at the end of it. Thomas was booked for time wasting at a goal kick after being warned by the Malaysian referee. Both he and Nathan Coe have been cautioned for that and one wonders whether they have been instructed to delay as much as possible to allow their defenders to have a breather, or whether they are just not paying attention.
Up front a similar question is raised as Victory’s attackers were caught offside on several occasions. Sometimes this result from delayed passes out of defence, but on others it was a failure to appreciate that defenders step up as soon as a through ball is on the cards. So attackers need to have heads on swivels to time their incursions. On the other hand, sometimes officials get it wrong and there was some dubiety about an incident in the 76th minute when substitute Mark Milligan sent Barbouses away again. The Kiwi international put the ball in the next but the flag went up. Another substitute Tom Rogic released Barbouses in stoppage time, but again offside was the decision as Barbouses beat the keeper.
Before this the Marinos had a number of gilt-edged opportunities to at least equalise. A couple of free kicks would surely have been converted by Shunsuke Nakamura, but the former Celtic and Blue Samurai star was not able to take the field. Lawrence Thomas made a brilliant and brave double save in the 64th minute and Jungo Fujimoto hit the bar with a long range effort, but Victory held on to the delight of the home supporters. The Yokohama fans kept up their drumming, jumping and chanting, but in the end it was the homesters who were celebrating. The attendance was 6.357.