Brave Victory go close

A brave Melbourne Victory has ended its AFC Champions League campaign with a 3-2 loss to Seongnam Ilhwa at Tancheon Sports Complex on Wednesday night.

A brave Melbourne Victory has ended its AFC Champions League campaign with a 3-2 loss to Seongnam Ilhwa at Tancheon Sports Complex on Wednesday night.

There may have been little on the line other than pride, with Seongnam guaranteed of finishing on top of Group E and Melbourne unable to qualify for the knockout stages.

But after trailing 1-0 at the break the visitors twice drew level before Jae Chul Jo settled the match with seven minutes left.

Earlier, Kwang Jin Cheon had given Seongnam the lead in the 26th minute before the introduction of Mate Dugandzic at half-time proved a masterstroke as he scored fewer than 60 seconds after the resumption.

With 16 minutes left Namkung Do turned from provider to goalscorer to regain the lead for the hosts, only for Tom Pondeljak to mark his return from injury with a second equaliser minutes later although Jo made certain of the three points when he chipped Mitch Langerak.

Seongnam Ilhwa finished its six group games with 15 of a possible 18 points thanks to its latest win while Melbourne Victory tripled its haul of goals for the competition in one outing but finished fourth on four points.

Playing without a recognised striker due to the absence through injury of Archie Thompson (knee), Nik Mrdja (hip) and Robbie Kruse (ankle), Victory was also without Matthew Kemp (knee), Billy Celeski (knee) and Rody Vargas (rested) but did regain Pondeljak from a hamstring injury.

Melbourne goalkeeper Langerak copped an accidental boot to the face in the opening minutes before in the eighth minute his captain Kevin Muscat made a timely intervention of Hong Chul’s cross with Fabricio Souza sliding in at the near post.

In the 16th minute Souza took the first free kick of the game that was within range but from 25 metres he blasted well over the top before two minutes later, Langerak again needed to be on his toes when Souza laid off for Hack Yong to fire at goal.

Do and Souza both missed with free headers nearing the midway point of the first half, before Langerak pushed a mishit shot from Souza away for a corner with Sasa Ognenovski, who scored in the first clash between the teams in March, heading against the post.

Two minutes later and the hosts did break through when Do managed to get past Adrian Leijer and Muscat before cutting it back to the heart of the box where Cheon was waiting to smash the ball past Langerak.

After hardly troubling the opposition in the first half, the second stanza was only seconds old when Pondeljak intercepted in midfield and passed for Carlos Hernandez whose superb through ball was then put away by Dugandzic.

Souza tested Langerak with another long-range free kick before Melbourne’s young gun missed the chance to double his haul and put his team ahead on 52 minutes, only to be denied by the advancing Sung-Ryong Jung.

Hernandez wound up after Jung punched away a cross from Dugandzic but Ognenovski blocked his effort and the deadlock was broken when Souza back-heeled Cheol Ho Kim’s pass into the box and Do shaped to shoot on his right before wheeling back onto his left and firing home.

Moments later though, and Pondeljak fired a low shot into the left corner from the front of the box after Grant Brebner and Hernandez were both involved in the lead-up before Langerak denied Byung Kuk Cho from point-blank range.

The youngster could do little about the move that settled the game though, with Jung’s long free kick headed on by Do and into the path of Jo who calmly chipped the advancing Langerak.

Melbourne did have one last chance to share the points with Diogo Ferreira providing a pinpoint cross from the right to the far post but Luke Pilkington could only head the ball into the ground with the goal at his mercy.

Seongnam Ilhwa 3 (Kwang Jin Cheon 28, Do Namkung 72, Jae Chul Jo 83)
Melbourne Victory 2 (Mate Dugandzic 46, Tom Pondeljak 77)