Muscat earns Victory an ACL draw

April 5, 2011
By Adrian Warren

A vital goal from veteran Kevin Muscat just about kept Melbourne Victory alive in the Asian Champions League, as they battled to a 1-1 away draw with Tianjin Tedu in China on Tuesday night.

Muscat's flick header from a 52nd-minute Carlos Hernandez corner cancelled out a 19th-minute goal to Tianjin captain Marko Zoric.

Melbourne had a one-man advantage for the final 15 minutes after Serbian defender Zoric was sent off for a dreadful tackle from behind on Hernandez.

The result left Victory bottom of the four-team group, with just one point from their three matches at the halfway stage of the group phase.

They are five points behind second-placed Korean side Jeju United, who scored a 2-1 home win over Japan's Gamba Osaka in the other Group E match on Tuesday.

Melbourne have never won in eight away games over two-and-a-half ACL campaigns, but their improved second-half display earned them just their second point outside Australia.

Victory hardly created a worthwhile chance in the first half but played with far more purpose after the break when Socceroos striker Robbie Kruse came on to give Archie Thompson support up front.

Melbourne have become notorious for conceding set-piece goals and it again proved their downfall, with Zoric scoring from a corner.

They failed to deal with a near-post flick on, with Zoric heading home from close range after his initial effort was parried by new Victory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi.

Most of Melbourne's forays forward in the first half ended with Thompson caught offside.

Melbourne's only real opportunity in the first half came in the second minute when Thompson and Adrian Leijer both failed to connect with a teasing Muscat cross across the six-yard box.

The visitors squandered a glorious double chance to take the lead a few minutes after Muscat's equaliser.

Kruse was put clear by a Hernandez pass, but lost control of the ball, with Thompson having a follow-up shot blocked by a defender.

Victory pressed for a winner after Zoric's dismissal, with hard-working midfielder Grant Brebner firing wide after running onto a Kruse through ball.

Thompson had another shot blocked by a defender after the Tianjin goalkeeper kicked the ball straight to the Melbourne striker.

"It was definitely a battle. It's just a credit to all the players and all the subs that came on to get something out of the game," Victory defender Matthew Foschini told AAP.

"To be honest, I thought we were pretty unlucky not to get a win out of it.

"We thought we were going to come away with the three points. Archie and Krusey had a few good chances and on another day maybe we win 2-1, 3-1, but it wasn't to be.

"We'll just get back on the horse, play them again at home in a couple of weeks and hopefully get the win and take it from there."