Victory secures ACL qualification in Kashima


Melbourne Victory has qualified for the 2020 AFC Champions League following a 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers in Japan.

Victory will compete in the competition for a third consecutive season after defeating the 2018 Champions on a rainy night in Kashima.



Melbourne’s first chance came in the fifth minute, when Robbie Kruse found space down the left flank with a neat piece of skill. His cross bounced into the path of Kenny Athiu, who couldn’t find the target with a left-footed volley.

A quick one-two between Kashima’s midfield forced Leigh Broxham into making a foul on the edge of the Victory penalty area. Katsuya Nagato stepped up, but his effort sailed high and wide.

In the 17th minute, Lawrence Thomas denied Ryuji Izumi with an acrobatic save – diving to his top corner and pushing the volley wide of his goal.

Victory had its crossbar rattled in the 31st minute. Everaldo’s header bounced off the woodwork, closely watched by an outstretched Thomas.

Andrew Nabbout had the first shot of the second half. His effort from a fair distance was destined for the far corner, but a fingertip save denied Victory the lead.

Nabbout had more luck with his second attempt. From the edge of the area, Nabbout shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired a shot on target. A deflection off a Kashima defender took the ball over Suntae and into the back of the net.

Victory grew in confidence with a 1-0 lead, finding more space and possession in the opposition’s half. Athiu drew a number of fouls with some clever hold-up play and Poulsen continued to ask questions from set pieces.

In the 67th minute, Thomas pulled off another top save. His quick reactions denied Kashima an equaliser from close range.

The Victory goalkeeper was called into action again moments later. This time pouncing on a loose ball in the six-yard box.

Ola Toivonen came off the bench to replace Athiu in the 82nd minute, as Kashima increased their intensity.

Kashima’s advances were matched by Victory’s defensive organisation and Thomas’ unbeatable presence between the posts.

After three minutes of stoppage time, the whistle blew- confirming AFC Champions League qualification for Melbourne.


2020 AFC Champions League Qualifying Play-off

Kashima Antlers 0
Melbourne Victory 1 (Andrew Nabbout 54’)

Kashima Antlers: Suntae (gk); Rikuto, Nara, Inukai, Katsuya; Juan Alano, Misao (c), Leo Silva (Higashi 77’), Izumi (Shirasaki 72’); Shoma, Everaldo.

Melbourne Victory: Thomas (gk); Roux, Carrigan, Donachie, Broxham (c) (Lauton 73’), Traore; Poulsen (Lesiotis 78’), Basha; Nabbout, Athiu (Toivonen 82’), Kruse.

Yellow cards: Everaldo, Leo Silva
Red Cards: Nil
Venue: Kashima Soccer Stadium

Next up

Victory travels to Perth in Round 17 of the Hyundai A-League on Saturday, February 1.