Melbourne Victory bid farewell to Kevin Muscat and Carl Valeri in a 3-1 loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.
Muscat took charge for the final time and captain Valeri played his last professional game at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
But despite Ola Toivonen’s stunning free-kick cancelling out Taishi Matsumoto’s opener, Sanfrecce sealed a win in Group F thanks to goals from Yusuke Minagawa and Tsukasa Morishima.
Keisuke Honda also made his final appearance for Victory in its last game of the season.
Sanfrecce opened the scoring in the fifth minute, Taishi Matsumoto getting on the end of a corner at the back post to head in the opener.
Victory dominated long periods after falling behind, with Raul Baena shooting wide from inside the area in the 17th minute.
After a Storm Roux header went wide and Kosta Barbarouses forced Sanfrecce goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi into a save, Victory created its best chance.
Honda played in Toivonen, who poked wide in a one-on-one with Hayashi in the 27th minute.
While Victory enjoyed the majority of possession, it needed goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas to make a great save to push away a Hiroya Matsumoto header nine minutes before half-time.
Toivonen had another chance early in the second half, the striker’s free-kick from the edge of the area pushed away by Hayashi.
Approaching the hour-mark, Thomas made a comfortable save from Kohei Shimizu’s long-range strike.
Victory continued to create half-chances, Toivonen meeting a Leigh Broxham cross from the left, but his header was saved by Hayashi.
But Toivonen deservedly equalised with 20 minutes remaining, the Swedish striker curling a brilliant free-kick into the top corner from 25 yards.
However, Sanfrecce quickly struck twice to secure its win, Minagawa’s goal followed up by Morishima’s effort from distance.
Player in focus
What they said – Carl Valeri
on the game…
“I think a lapse of concentration and I think within a minute we’d conceded two goals and it’s a sad way to end, but looking back on my time here at Melbourne Victory, it’s been a wonderful five years, on the pitch but more so off the pitch. I’ve made so many friends, friends that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life and I’m going to be working at the club and helping shape the future.”
“I’m ready, I’m ready. My family and my friends around me, I’m ready for this moment, I’ve given everything I can give and now I’m going to give back to football in other avenues and I’m really looking forward to that.”
“Kevin’s been exceptional. He’s an exceptional leader and I learnt a lot from him. I still remember the first conversations I had with him and he motivated me back then and I’m really sad to see him go as a coach and as a friend, but I’m happy for him. I think he deserves some time away to rest and I know he’ll come back bigger and stronger.”
AFC Champions League 2019 Match Day 6
Melbourne Victory 1 (Ola Toivonen 70′)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3 (Taishi Matsumoto 5′, Yusuke Minagawa 73′, Tsukasa Morishima 75′)
Melbourne Victory: Thomas (gk); Roux, Deng, Carrigan, Broxham; Valeri (c) (Kamsoba 81′); Honda, Antonis, Baena (Troisi 65′); Barbarouses, Toivonen.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima: Hayashi (gk); Mizumoto, Ibayashi, Araki; Morishima (Dohi 82′), Inagaki, Taishi Matsumoto (Yoshino 76′), Shimizu (Takahashi 77′); Hiroya Matsumoto, Minagawa, Notsuda.
Yellow cards: Toivonen 8′, Valeri 10′, Mizumoto 28′, Barbarouses 87′
Red cards: Nil
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium