Muscat farewelled in Melbourne with a draw

Diposting oleh football on Jumat, 06 Mei 2011

Kevin Muscat has farewelled Melbourne, and the exit door also beckons for the Victory from the Asian Champions League.

Melbourne Victory's 1-1 draw with Japanese rivals Gamba Osaka at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in their Group E clash leaves them bottom of the group with one match remaining.

The A-League side now must sweat on the result of the other Group E match between leaders Tianjin Teda and Korea's Jeju United being played in China later on Wednesday night.

But two-time championship skipper Muscat, who was playing his last match on Australian soil before he retires at the end of the ACL campaign, was farewelled with a fighting performance by the Victory.

The home side stunned Gamba after just 12 minutes when centre-back Adrian Leijer powered home a header from a Carlos Hernandez corner.

Just three minutes later Victory also had a solid penalty shout turned down by the Qatari referee when Gamba defender Akira Kaji appeared to handle the ball inside the area.

Gamba lifted their rating soon after though, and blanketed the Victory for the remainder of the half.

They earned a deserved equaliser just before halftime when Yamaguchi Satoshi hit the post, then Nakazawa Sota headed home the rebound from close range.

Victory were the better side in the second half.

They poured on the late pressure and came closest to netting the winner they needed to stay alive for a top two finish in their group through Hernandez.

The Costa Rican's 87th minute thunderbolt was well saved by Gamba keeper Yosuke Fujigaya.

Muscat paid tribute to his side's gutsy effort to attempt to see him off with a quality performance against one of the best teams in Asia.

Gamba had thumped the Victory 5-1 in their ACL opener - a match which led to the sacking of previous coach Ernie Merrick.

Muscat said he was humbled by how much his team - minus three key players in Robbie Kruse, Grant Brebner and Surat Sukha through suspension - lifted in his milestone match.

"Everyone who took the field a couple of months ago in that game (against Gamba) let themselves down, let the club down," Muscat said.

"The effort that the boys put in tonight in the last game for me in Melbourne was an unbelievable effort and I couldn't be prouder.

"It's just unfortunate we didn't get three points, but the performance was a very good one."

Gamba coach Akira Nishino admitted the Victory under Durakovic were much improved from their hammering in Osaka.

"Since they got a new coach, their motivation and spirit have improved, and maybe it is also to do with Kevin Muscat's last game," Nishino said.

The Victory take on Jeju United in Korea next Wednesday in their final group match.

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