MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Kosta Barbarouses’ 90th-minute strike earned three points for Melbourne Victory in Tuesday’s 1-0 Asian Champions League Group F win over Kawasaki Frontale, while the Kashima Antlers remained top of Group H with a 1-1 home draw to Sydney FC.
Barbarouses decided the action-packed tie in a nifty combination with Terry Antonis, who chested down a pass on the right to his teammate. Barbarouses then fired home at the near post in a game that saw both teams rattling the post and bar and forcing good saves and blocks for 90 minutes.
Frontale created the bulk of the first-half scoring opportunities and then withstood the Victory’s onslaught as the game wound down. But minutes shy of a draw, the visitors were left ruing their missed opportunities.
“We created plenty of chances but couldn’t score,” Frontale defender Shogo Taniguchi said. “We kept battling until the end but our failures proved costly.”
The hosts nearly broke the deadlock thanks to a 65th-minute defensive mixup. When ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong rolled the ball forward, no Frontale player took charge, leaving Antonis an opportunity. He charged forward and chipped Jung, only for his shot to sail just over the bar and settle in the top of the net.
A missile from Kentaro Moriya in the 77th minute forced an acrobatic save by Rhys Williams, but as the clock ticked and a draw appeared ever more likely, the hosts piled on.
Antonis nicked the post with a blistering shot, while another hard shot deflected off a Frontale defender’s chest, causing Victory players to call for a handball. In the 89th minute, Melbourne midfielder James Donachie missed a free header from a corner.
The defeat kept the J. League champions firmly rooted at the bottom of Group F with one draw and three losses. The win was Victory’s first after two draws and a loss.
At Kashima Stadium, Matt Simon’s 70th-minute header ended the Antlers’ two-game winning run in the competition. From the right side of the six-yard box, Simon headed home a cross from the left delivered by Luke Wilkshire.
The hosts, who lead Group H with two wins and two draws, broke the ice when Mu Kanazaki headed in a failed clearance on a 27th-minute corner.
Sydney has drawn two and lost two to sit bottom of the group.