Victory, Jeonbuk all square in tense ACL tussle

Melbourne Victory have been held to a 1-1 draw at home by Jeonbuk Motors in a frantic AFC Champions League (ACL) Round of 16 first leg.

Besart Berisha gave Victory the ideal start in Melbourne, nodding the ball home after just four minutes, but a brilliant free-kick from Leonardo in the 13th minute ensures Jeonbuk are favourites to advance next week.

The hosts had chances to win the game – no better than Berisha’s astonishing miss just after the break – but Kevin Muscat’s men were unable to give Archie Thompson a winning farewell in his final home gave wearing the Big V.

Archie Thompson says goodbye to the AAMI Park faithful.

With an away goal under their belt, Jeonbuk will host Victory on Wednesday knowing a clean sheet will take them to the ACL quarter-finals.

A frantic first half saw the ball fly from one end to the other of AAMI Park in the opening 20 minutes, with both teams creating a number of chances.

Victory’s opening goal came from Kosta Barbarouses’ corner, with Leigh Broxham acrobatically hooking the ball back in play after it flicked off a Jeonbuk defender’s head, and Berisha pounced in the six-yard box.

Besart Berisha

The visitors provided plenty of threat on the counter-attack, however, and in the 12th minute Matthieu Delpierre fouled the lively Han Kyo-won on the edge of the box to stop such a break.

The Frenchman was deservedly shown a yellow card and Leonardo added more pain from the dead-ball, curling his free-kick over the wall to equalise for Jeonbuk.

Daniel Georgievski glanced a header across goal soon after before Choi Kyu-baek threatened aerially for the K League champions but as the half wore on Victory dominated possession without opening up Jeonbuk too often.

Berisha missed a huge opportunity just two minutes after half-time, failing to head Oliver Bozanic’s cross into the net from right in front when unmarked, while soon after the marquee striker sent a rasping drive just over the bar.

With 22 minutes remaining, Thompson was replaced, with the entire crowd chanting the veteran striker’s name.

The game also marked Delpierre and Barbarouses’ final appearances in Melbourne for Victory.

Victory continued to push for a winner, with another Georgievski header just evading Broxham at the back post in the 81st minute as Jeonbuk held on.