2011 AFC Champions League Review


A look back on Melbourne Victory’s dramatic 2011 AFC Champions League campaign.

Game 1 v Gamba Osaka @ Expo ’70 Stadium, Osaka
Gamba Osaka 5 (Takei 4, Adriano 7 pen, Lee Keun-Ho 11, Futagawa 63, Kim Seung-Young 90)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Kevin Muscat 22 pen)

Melbourne Victory’s AFC Champions League campaign got off to the worst possible start against Group E favourites Gamba Osaka in Japan. The home side were 3-0 up in just 11 minutes after goals to Takei, Adriano and Korean Keun. Kevin Muscat dragged a goal back with a well-taken 22nd minute penalty and that was the end of the scoring in a 3-1 first-half. The J-League powerhouses withstood some early pressure from Victory in the second-half before adding some icing to the cake with two second-half goals. The defeat was Victory’s heaviest in Champions League football and ultimately cost foundation coach Ernie Merrick his job.

VICTORY: Michael Petkovic, Adrian Leijer, Rody Vargas, Matthew Kemp (Surat Sukha 65′), Kevin Muscat, Diogo Ferreira (Billy Celeski 16′, Leigh Broxham 77′), Tom Pondeljak, Marvin Angulo, Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp, Robbie Kruse. Coach: Ernie Merrick.

Game 2 v Jeju United @ Docklands Stadium, Melbourne
Melbourne Victory 1 (Danny Allsopp 37)
Jeju United 2 (Park Hyun-Beom 41, Lee Hyun-Ho 84)

For the first time in the club’s history, Ernie Merrick was not in charge when Melbourne Victory took the field. Former Socceroos defender Mehmet Durakovic, previously in charge of the club’s youth team, stepped into the role as interim coach and took control of his first game after three days at the helm. The new man made two changes to the line-up with Scotsman Grant Brebner returning from injury to anchor the midfield, while North Queensland Fury recruit Isaka Cernak was handed a first-team debut. Another difference was the change in formation with Durakovic adopting a 4-4-2 compared to the 3-4-3 preferred by his predecessor. Victory gave the new coach a dream start on 37 minutes when Danny Allsopp completed a build-up involving Adrian Leijer, Tom Pondeljak and Archie Thompson. But the Koreans equalised four minutes later when Victory failed to clear a corner and Park slotted home through a maze of legs. The scores were locked at 1-1 until the 84th minute when substitute Kang Soo-Il played in Lee, who seamlessly tucked away the winner.

VICTORY: Michael Petkovic, Adrian Leijer, Matthew Kemp, Kevin Muscat, Surat Sukha (Matthew Foschini 67′), Tom Pondeljak, Grant Brebner, Isaka Cernak (Billy Celeski 83′), Marvin Angulo (Carlos Hernandez 58′), Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp. Coach: Mehmet Durakovic.

Game 3 v Tianjin Teda @ Teda Football Stadium, Tianjin
Tianjin Teda 1 (Marko Zoric 19)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Kevin Muscat 52)

Melbourne Victory claimed their first point of the campaign with a hard-fought draw against the Group E leaders in China. Certainly Victory were stiff not to have come away with something more after dominating the second-half against Tianjin, who played the final 15 minutes with 10 men after the send-off of skipper Marko Zoric. The Serbian defender, who joined the team coached by former Dutch midfielder Arie Haan in 2010, gave Tianjin Teda the lead when he headed home at the second attempt following a corner. Victory pressed hard for an equaliser with Archie Thompson coming closest before levelling proceedings through Kevin Muscat’s second goal of the campaign. Muscat rose highest to connect with a Carlos Hernandez corner and his header flew past goalkeeper Li Weifang. After Zoric’s send-off on 75 minutes, the home side parked the bus and while Victory tried hard to find a winner, had to be content with a more than deserved point. The match was notable for goalkeeper Tando Velaphi, who made his Victory debut, while Matthew Foschini gave an assured display at right back.

VICTORY: Tando Velaphi, Adrian Leijer, Kevin Muscat, Surat Sukha (Diogo Ferreira 72′), Matthew Foschini, Tom Pondeljak (Robbie Kruse 46′), Leigh Broxham (Billy Celeski 89′), Grant Brebner, Carlos Hernandez, Isaka Cernak, Archie Thompson. Coach: Mehmet Durakovic.

Game 4 v Tianjin Teda @ Docklands Stadium, Melbourne
Melbourne Victory 2 (Carlos Hernandez 44, Kevin Muscat 45+1 pen)
Tianjin Teda 1 (Chen Tao 37)

Melbourne Victory resuscitated their hopes of progressing past the group stage with an impressive 2-1 win over Tianjin Teda at Docklands. Having fought out a 1-1 draw against the Chinese outfit in Tianjin two weeks earlier, Victory went into the match knowing only three points would do. There was some controversy ahead of the contest with the visitors refusing to play under a roof even as heavy rain lashed Melbourne. Coach Mehmet Durakovic named an attacking line-up with Socceroo Robbie Kruse picked to start alongside Archie Thompson, while Carlos Hernandez and Isaka Cernak complemented the pair as wingers. For all that, it was the visitors who drew first blood on 37 minutes when Chen Tao produced a superb solo effort after dispossessing Kevin Muscat near halfway. But Victory turned the match on its head with two goals in three minutes. Costa Rican star Hernandez produced a moment of magic in the 44th minute when his hopeful 35-yard free kick sailed past Tianjin goalkeeper Zhao Yanming. Less than 120 seconds later, Victory was a goal up when Muscat slotted home from the penalty spot after Kruse was bodychecked in the box by Tianjin captain Cao Yang. Cernak spurned a good opportunity to put Victory 3-1 up four minutes into the second stanza and it left the home side to hang on during the latter stages of the contest, particularly after Surat Sukha was sent off after receiving a second yellow card, among the nine handed out by Iranian referee Faghani Alireza. The win moved Victory to four points from as many matches, only three points from Tianjin, who retained the Group lead after Gamba defeated Jeju United on Matchday 4.

VICTORY: Tando Velaphi, Adrian Leijer, Kevin Muscat, Surat Sukha, Matthew Foschini, Leigh Broxham, Grant Brebner, Carlos Hernandez (Diogo Ferreira 90′), Isaka Cernak, Archie Thompson, Robbie Kruse (Danny Allsopp 81′). Coach: Mehmet Durakovic.

Game 5 v Gamba Osaka @ Docklands Stadium, Melbourne
Melbourne Victory 1 (Adrian Leijer 12)
Gamba Osaka 1 (Nakazawa 43)

The penultimate game of the group stage was an emotional affair with Kevin Muscat playing his final professional match on Australian soil. Muscat led the Victory team onto the park after being given the honour by current captain Adrian Leijer. Coach Mehmet Durakovic had to make three forced changes to the starting line-up that accounted for Tianjin with Rody Vargas, Diogo Ferreira and Danny Allsopp coming in for suspended trio Surat Sukha, Grant Brebner and Robbie Kruse. Having been spanked 5-1 in their previous clash, it was paramount for Victory to get off to a good start and they did just that when Leijer headed home from a Carlos Hernandez corner on 12 minutes. Stung by the goal, Gamba responded in kind with a barrage of corners. Victory’s defence was finally breached on 43 minutes when Sota Nakazawa reacted quickest to a rebound off the post to level at 1-all. The home side started the second-half in bright fashion, but couldn’t capitalise on four good chances created inside the first 15 minutes. With Gamba content to sit on a point, Victory tried hard for the winner, but the closest they came was a late Hernandez effort that was brilliantly knocked away by goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigawa. The result left only a mathematical chance for Victory to progress through to the round of 16.

VICTORY: Tando Velaphi, Adrian Leijer, Rody Vargas, Kevin Muscat, Matthew Foschini, Diogo Ferreira, Leigh Broxham, Carlos Hernandez, Isaka Cernak (Marvin Angulo 90′), Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp. Coach: Mehmet Durakovic.

Game 6 v Jeju United @ Jeju World Cup Stadium, Seogwipo
Jeju United 1 (Kim Eun-Jung 25)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Diogo Ferreira 61)

The footballing gods certainly weren’t on Victory’s side as the club bowed out of the AFC Champions League after an amazing match in South Korea. Gamba’s 2-0 win over Tianjin meant in the end the result of Victory’s match was irrelevant. Nonetheless, the Jeju World Cup Stadium was the scene of a remarkable 90 minutes. The end scoreboard read Melbourne Victory 1, Jeju United 1, but it didn’t tell the full story as the Australians were denied two clear goals through incorrect offside decisions. In the fourth minute, Danny Allsopp put the ball in the back of the net only to be ruled offside by the linesman who didn’t notice a Jeju defender languishing metres behind his team-mates between Allsopp and the home team’s goalkeeper. Striker Kim Eun-Jung put Jeju a goal up with a smart finish to fine build-up play. Victory were again incorrectly denied an equaliser eight minutes after the break when Archie Thompson scored only to be adjudged offside when he wasn’t. It took a brilliant 25-yard volley from Diogo Ferreira on 61 minutes for Victory to level the match. The visitors put the ball in the back of the net three more times during the dying stages, but the triumvirate were all correctly ruled offside. The match marked the end of Kevin Muscat’s outstanding career, while it was the final appearance for Robbie Kruse, who joined German club Fortuna Dusseldorf. It also meant the end of the road for Victory who gleaned six points (one win, three draws and two losses) from their campaign.

VICTORY: Tando Velaphi, Adrian Leijer, Rody Vargas, Kevin Muscat, Matthew Foschini, Diogo Ferreira, Leigh Broxham, Carlos Hernandez, Archie Thompson (Billy Celeski 59′), Danny Allsopp, Robbie Kruse (Surat Sukha 88′). Coach: Mehmet Durakovic.