Victory snare Tianjin Teda draw

Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League hopes found a faint pulse on Tuesday night after a 1-1 draw against Tianjin Teda in China.

Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League hopes found a faint pulse on Tuesday night after a 1-1 draw against Tianjin Teda in China.

A header from Kevin Muscat cancelled out Marko Zoric’s opener for Tianjin to hand Victory their first point of the campaign. But they will be ruing a missed opportunity after dominating the second half against the Chinese side, who finished with 10 men after Zoric was sent off.

Coach Mehmet Durakovic made four changes to the starting line-up that lost 2-1 to Jeju United at Docklands on March 15, adopting a more defensive formation with Leigh Broxham, Matthew Foschini and Carlos Hernandez getting the nod, while goalkeeper Michael Petkovic was dropped for Tando Velaphi.

Victory could have taken the lead as early as the second minute, when Muscat whipped in a quickly-taken free-kick from the right hand side, but the ball just eluded Archie Thompson and Adrian Leijer in the box.

Tianjin went close on 11 minutes when Yu Dabao skied his volley after being picked out by a well-placed cross from the left, and Victory retaliated immediately with a promising run from Thompson, who only just missed Hernandez in the box with a hopeful ball.

The hosts took the lead after 19 minutes, and it was their Serbian skipper Zoric who pounced after a corner kick once again caused chaos in Victory’s penalty area when it was headed on by central defender Li Weifeng and rebounded off Dabao into Zoric-s path.

The defender’s first effort was stopped brilliantly by Velaphi, but a desperate Tom Pondeljak could not block the second on the goal line.

Dabao was forced off on 20 minutes after being on the receiving end of a couple of heavy knocks and was replaced by Nigerian striker Emanuel Odita.

Victory struggled to carve out clear chances for the remainder of the first half, with Pondeljak and Hernandez largely ineffective and Thompson struggling to beat the offside trap.

Victory were fortunate not go further behind after 39 minutes, when Chen Tao made a penetrating run down the left before linking up with Wu Wei’an who fired in a cross to Zhang Xiaobin.

The midfielder thundered his volley off the crossbar and Odita’s follow up flew over.

Durakovic decided to inject some youth into the side at half-time, brining departing striker Robbie Kruse on for Pondeljak at half-time.

Kruse’s inclusion sparked the visitors, and in the 50th minute he made a strong run down the right hand side before firing a low cross to Thompson, who tried to finish the move with a backheel but failed to make contact.

Victory were back on level terms a minute later when Muscat’s glancing header from a Hernandez corner left Tianjin ‘keeper Yang Qipeng stranded.

Victory squandered the best chance of the game on 55 minutes, when a brilliant ball from Hernandez put Kruse through with only Qipeng to beat, but the striker went the wrong way and turned into two defenders, with Thompson’s follow-up effort blocked.

Tempers boiled over just after the hour mark when Tianjin’s Argentinean ace Luciano Olguin was involved in a scuffle with Muscat and Foschini, but referee Valentin Kovalenko decided a talking to was punishment enough for those involved.

Odita flashed a long-range effort just wide in the 69th minute as the Chinese outfit began to come into the game with Victory tiring.

But that momentum was broken when Zoric was given his marching orders on 74 minutes for a crude challenge on Hernandez that prompted an angry response from Victory players and left the referee with no choice but to dismiss the Serb.

Kruse played in Grant Brebner moments later with a lovely ball, but the Scot’s shot was well wide.

Thompson could have put his side ahead with seven minutes left to play when a poor clearance from Qipeng landed at his feet.

The striker decided to go it alone, when a better option was the unmarked Kruse standing to his left, and his shot was blocked.

The result lifted Tianjin to seven points – a point clear of Koreans Jeju United at the top of the group – while Victory are still bottom on one point, two behind Gamba Osaka, who suffered a 2-1 loss to Jeju in Korea on Tuesday.