Victory pick up valuable ACL point in Japan

Melbourne Victory have maintained their unbeaten start to the 2016 AFC Champions League, with goalkeeper Danny Vukovic standing tall in a 1-1 draw away to Gamba Osaka.

Kevin Muscat’s men took the lead in the third minute in fortuitous circumstances, with Gamba winger Shu Kurata scoring an own goal but the J-League club eventually earned a share of the points thanks to Yasuhito Endo’s second-half header.

But it was Vukovic, who played the most decisive role in Victory’s draw, with the gloveman making three brilliant stops after half-time, including a point-blank save to deny Patric with a minute remaining at Suita City Football Stadium.

Victory hit the front via the first corner of the match with Nick Ansell’s initial header knocked into the net by Kurata, who knew little about it.

Nick Ansell

The goal gave the visitors momentum with a number of chances falling their way as Gamba struggled to get going.

But Victory couldn’t manage a second goal and the hosts responded after the break, initially forcing Danny Vukovic into two brilliant saves before Endo equalised in the 57th minute.

Vukovic’s first stop was an acrobatic tip onto the crossbar from Patric’s thunderous shot, while his second led to the corner that Endo scored from, Victory’s custodian denying Takashi Usami from close range.

Gamba were suddenly on top and Victory had to hang on in defence, with Oliver Bozanic coming off just after the hour mark, seemingly due to the after-effects of a first-half knock to the head.

The match evened out again in the final 15 minutes, although Gamba had more genuine opportunities including Patric’s late effort, and Muscat would have been thrilled to hang on for a point to keep Victory top of Group G after two games.