Competition: AFC Champions League - Group E
Date: Wednesday, 31st March 2010 (19:30 kick off)
Venue: Etihad Stadium
|MUSCAT 60' (pen.)|
DF IGAWA (yellow card 89')
MF TANIGUCHI (replaced by KUSUKAMI 62')
MF TASAKA (replaced by KIMURA 90')
FW NOBORIZATO (replace by VITOR JUNIOR '69)
Well, I certainly didn't see that one coming. A combination of poor shooting, some outstanding saves from Mitch Langerak in the Melbourne goal and a decidedly pungent penalty call conspired to drive what must be a final nail in Frontale's ACL coffin.
It was always going to be a tougher proposition than the rout at Todoroki. A fresh Melbourne side showed much more hunger in midfield and their defence wasn't quite so porous with the experienced Kevin Muscat back in the fold.
Frontale for their part didn't look as sharp - unsurprisingly after the long journey. But despite a decent start by the home team, the visitors were back running the show by the middle of the first half.
Kyohei Noborizato was given a rare start in place of the suspended Chong Tese. The youngster certainly wasn't overawed by the occasion, but Chong's are big boots to fill and he was clearly missed.
Kurotsu played through the middle and had the best of the first-half chances. Breaking clear down the right, he cut inside Muscat who did just enough to unbalance the striker and take the fizz out of his shot. From the resulting corner it was Kurotsu again who rose highest, but his header was acrobatically tipped away by the keeper.
Frontale were getting a lot of possession around the edge of the Melbourne penalty area, but showed a lack of accuracy from mid-range as shot after mis-hit shot went ballooning over the crossbar.
In the second half, the visitors continued to work hard and press forward, but on 60 minutes the referee decided to throw a spanner in the works. Komiyama came across to get goal side of lone Melbourne striker Robbie Kruse and as the two went shoulder to shoulder Kruse collapsed in a heap. (To be fair to the player he looked as surprised as anyone that the penalty had been awarded.) Muscat stepped up and sent Eiji the wrong way and Melbourne into the lead.
Despite playing most of the remaining 30 minutes in the Melbourne half, Frontale were unable to find the back of the net. Langerak made a stunning save from Tasaka, palming his shot onto the woodwork. Then in the dying seconds he somehow managed to tip Renatinho's point-blank effort over the bar.
The young keeper certainly deserves his moment in the limelight, but Frontale's shooting was as much to blame, with a barrage of shots from around the edge of the area continuing to sail high and wide.
The highlight of the match, for me, was the appearance of Vitor Junior as a second-half sub. The diminutive Brazilian trickster has missed the best part of a year through injury, but looks to have lost none of his nifty footwork. It'll take him a while to recover full match fitness, but it's good to have some positive news from the physio's bench.
In the group's other game, Seongnam secured their qualification with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Beijing. There's still a mathematical possibility that Frontale could steal that all-important second spot, but the chances of Melbourne taking the necessary points off the Chinese in the next round are slim at best.