Melbourne stays alive

Melbourne Victory has kept its faint hopes of progression to the second round of the AFC Champions League alive with a 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale in Melbourne.

Melbourne Victory has kept its faint hopes of progression to the second round of the AFC Champions League alive with a 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale in Melbourne.

A Kevin Muscat penalty on the hour proved the difference between the two teams as Melbourne notched not only its first points of the campaign but also its first goal. Depending on the result in the other match between Seongnam and Beijing, Melbourne could finds itself just three points off second place ahead of the next game against Beijing Guoan on April 14.

It was quite a turnaround from when the sides met eight days ago, where Kawasaki thrashed Melbourne 4-0 in Japan. The visitors may not have brought that quality of football to Australia, but the home side had keeper Mitch Langerak to thank for keeping them in the game with several excellent saves.

He was the out and out star of a match which produced several good chances but few outstanding moments.

It was a much more assured start from Melbourne when compared to the match last week and early on Marvin Angulo shot across the face as the home side made its attacking intentions known.

Masaru Kurotsu was the main threat for the visitors and he had several chances to give Kawasaki the lead in the first half. He pulled his first effort wide, while he was twice denied by a busy Langerak in the space of a minute around the half hour mark. He outmuscled Muscat to create the first chance, while the second he had a free header which was knocked away by Langerak’s outstretched fingers.

Adrian Leijer thwarted the other decent opportunity, sliding into to deflect Kyohei Noborizato’s goalbound effort away.

There were plenty of shots from Melbourne as well, but none of them troubled Eiji Kawashima, who watched on as Angulo put the ball over the bar and Carlos Hernandez shot wide from a dangerous position. Robbie Kruse then had an excellent chance when running onto a quick throw, but one on one with the keeper shot across the face.

Langerak was again called into action early in the second half after Yusuke Mori broke free down the right and delivered a quality cross to Renatinho, whose shot was knocked away by the Melbourne stopper.

Minutes later, up the other end, the ball fell invitingly to Nick Ward from a Muscat pass, but he hit it straight at Kawashima. The visiting keeper looked a little less composed soon after a deflection off a Kruse’s shot bounced over his head and close to goal.

The home crowd sprung to life in the 59th minute went a stern challenge from Takanobu Komiyama on Kruse was judged by Iranian referee Mozaffarizadehyazdi Saeid as a foul and a penalty was awarded, Muscat, who had missed from the spot in the penalty shootout loss to Sydney in the Grand Final, stepped up and converted without fuss for Melbourne’s first goal in the tournament.

Almost immediately, Kurotsu had a close range chance but again found Langerak too good, while the Melbourne keeper’s slight touch on Yosuke Tasaka’s rocket proved crucial as it hit the bar and deflected away.

Renatinho should have done better ten minutes from time when hitting the ball over after a great build up as the visitors continued to press for an equaliser. Substitute Jumpei Kusukami did a similar thing five minutes later and it was clear it wasn’t going to be Kawasaki’s night.

Appropriately it was Langerak who proved the late hero, with a magnificent reflex save from a deflected shot.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Muscat 60p)
Kawasaki Frontale 0
Crowd: 6,011