SYDNEY – Yokohama F. Marinos were sunk by a first-half strike from Kosta Barbarouses as the Emperor’s Cup holders went down 1-0 away to Melbourne Victory in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday.
Barbarouses netted with a clinical strike early in the first half, but despite dominating the second half, an under-strength Marinos were unable to find a way back and are still looking for their first win in Group G.
But it was not all bad news for Japanese clubs. Cerezo Osaka picked up their first win in Group E, Uruguay striker Diego Forlan opening his account for his new club to round off a 4-0 victory at home to Thailand’s Buriram United.
Yokohama has three wins out of three in the J.League, but were whipped 3-0 by Jeonbuk Motors in their ACL opener before holding defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China to a 1-1 draw at home last week. Cerezo have four points.
Melbourne took the lead after nine minutes when James Jeggo picked out Barbarouses with a fabulous pass and the New Zealand international slipped the ball first time through the legs of Yokohama goalkeeper Tetsuya Enomoto.
Yokohama started the match with only a handful of first-team regulars. Yuta Mikado fizzed a 25-meter effort just over the cross bar, but Melbourne nearly doubled its lead on the break in first-half stoppage time, Barbarouses steering his shot inches wide of the post.
Jungo Fujimoto came off the bench to replace Jin Hanato for the second half and the move nearly paid dividends in the 55th minute, when the former Nagoya Grampus man rattled the cross bar with a free kick after Pablo Contreras was booked for a foul on Yuzo Kobayashi.
Manabu Saito, Fujimoto and Yuhei Sato each went close as the visitors pressed hard for an equalizer, and substitute Yoshihito Fujita spurned a golden chance to level with 11 minutes left, just after Barbarouses had a goal ruled out for offside.
“After the first 15 minutes we controlled the rest of the game, so we really had to take three points. Even with the team I put out there, I believed we would win,” said Yokohama manager Yasuhiro Higuchi.
At Nagai Stadium, Japan striker Yoichiro Kakitani opened the scoring with a sweet finish at the near post and Takumi Minamino grabbed a brace before 2010 World Cup MVP Forlan capitalized on poor defending to wrap up the scoring in the dying seconds.
“More than anything, the team needed to win the game. I was able to score and the team performances are improving,” said Forlan. “The fans wanted me to score more than anything and so did I. This was an important win. I hope I can continue scoring and making a contribution to the team.”
Wednesday’s matches involving Japanese clubs see Kawasaki Frontale visit Western Sydney Wanderers, while two-time defending J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima are at home to FC Seoul.