Maclaren calls for patience with new-look City after ‘sloppy and slow’ Champions League opener

Melbourne City v Ventforet Kofu - Highlights | AFC Champions League | Group H

Melbourne City have been held to a goalless draw by J2 League side Vontforet Kofu in their opening Asian Champions League group-stage fixture.

Still a month out from the start of the 2023-24 A-League Men season, Rado Vidosic’s side struggled to create goalscoring chances at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Wednesday.

Their cause wasn’t helped by the absence of attackers Andrew Nabbout and Mat Leckie through injury.

Conversely, 35 games into their domestic campaign, Ventforet demonstrated purpose and intent whenever they had the ball, showing the drive of a team in the middle of their season.

The Japanese side is the only second-tier side in this year’s ACL, qualifying after winning the Emporer’s Cup in 2022.

They quickly began asking questions of City with Kohei Matsumoto and Yoshiki Torikai having repeated efforts on goal early on.

City keeper Jamie Young was increasingly called into action as the half progressed and he denied Masahiro Sekiguchi in the 28th minute and Matsumoto in the 33rd.

Torikai subsequently won a free kick in the 37th minute and Young stood rooted to the spot as Kazuhiro Sato banged a dipping effort onto the crossbar with the resulting attempt.

By the time the half ended the hosts found more possession, but half of their shots did not challenge Michael Woud in the Venforet goal.

Ventforet continued to push in the second half and Torikai forced Young into a fine save to maintain parity just before the hour mark.

City gradually began to move the ball into their attacking third as the match progressed but couldn’t create clear-cut chances resulting in the match ending goalless.

“At times we were a bit sloppy and slow,” captain Jamie Maclaren told AAP.

“I have to be mindful that it’s a new group … to play this style, it does take time.

“Being at home we want to be on the front foot and tonight at times we were outplayed.

“We’ll work on the training pitch to rectify things.”

“It’s nice to be back at AAMI Park, but obviously, it’s two points dropped, if you want to look at it like that,” Maclaren added on Paramount+.

“Especially at home. They are a good side, we’re never going to underestimate them, and we’ll respect that.

“It’s a new group here, we’ve got 13 or so new payers and we need to gel. We’re still in pre-season, they’ve played for 30-odd games in their league, so we can’t be too hard on ourselves.

“A clean sheet is great, but we’re not creating enough. So that’s something we need to work on, and we’ve got a semi-final coming up on Sunday.”

Ventforet coach Yoshiyuki Shinoda said they were disappointed to leave Melbourne with just a point.

“It was a good performance for us to show in our first match in the ACL,” Shinoda said through a translator.

“We played convincingly. I feel that we should have won.

“To take one point home is considered positive but our intention from the start was to get three points.”

Both teams are back in action on Sunday as City take on Sydney FC in the Australia Cup and Ventforet return home to take on Shimizu S-Pulse in J2.