Victory squeeze out draw with Jeonbuk
In its first home game of the 2014 Asian Champions League, Melbourne Victory squeezed out a hard-fought draw with Jeonbuk Motors from South Korea at Docklands on Wednesday night.
As happened in its away match in China, Victory took the lead in the first half, but was unable to hold on to it in the second, but lifted to secure an equaliser soon after going behind. For long periods Victory found it hard to break out of its own half with the speedy Korean midfield and forwards closing down attempts to play out from the back. So long balls which were often quickly returned were only a temporary solution to Victory’s problems. Kevin Muscat insisted after the Guangzhou Evergrande match that Victory had to improve its ball retention, but that remained an issue throughout this tie. So it was desperate defending which was the motif for the night and to be fair to the home team they managed that successfully for all but a three-minute period deep in the second half.
Leigh Broxham partnered Nick Ansell in central defence with Mark Milligan, Tom Rogic, Jesse Makarounas and James Jeggo in midfield, leaving Andrew Nabbout and Kosta Barbarouses in attack. Barbouses had an excellent chance in the 12th minute when Makarounas put him clear on the right, but he scooped his shot wide. Ansell pulled off an excellent saving tackle on Lee Dong Gook and then the Brazilian Leonardo had a shot which skidded off the cross bar and over. Three minutes later Victory, in its first concerted attack won a free kick about 25 metres from goal. Makarounas drove it hard and flat to the far post where Nick Ansell threw himself at the ball and finished in the net with it after crashing into the post on the way. There was a mayhem at the other end when the referee spotted a back pass handling error by Lawrence Thomas, but the keeper made amends by helping deflect the subsequent indirect free kick over the bar. Nabbout was very unlucky to be pulled up for offside on a Victory break in 41 minutes, being only one step inside the Jeonbuk half when the ball was played to him. The half ended with the Victory keeper in action again touching a header by Choi Bo Kyung over the bar.
The second half saw the visitors camped in the Victory half for nearly half an hour with very little relief. Finally the pressure told when Lee Seung Gi fired in a low shot which Thomas could only parry. Unfortunately the ball went straight out in front of goal and Lee Dong Gook pounced to fire home the rebound. That goal was a bit scrappy but there was absolutely nothing anyone could have done about the big striker’s second effort. He met a loose ball about 30 metres from goal and the swerving shot flew inside the post beyond Thomas’s despairing dive. Given that Victory had hardly mounted an attack in the second period, some of the home fans were very depressed but three minutes later Barbarouses latched on to a good through ball, sprinted clear and slid the ball through the keeper’s legs. Substitute Connor Pain came within centimetres of restoring Victory’s lead when he was just short of a Rashid Mahazi cross in the 88th minute, but that was the last action of home side.
The attendance was disappointing and while Victory’s fans at both ends made themselves heard, the Jeonbuk supporters kept up a barrage of sound with their drums and chants. At AAMI it would have been a much better atmosphere for both teams who deserve credit for lots of effort even if the result will probably leave both coaches feeling that they have lost two points, rather than gained one.