Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Melbourne finish Asian Champions League campaign with defeat in Korea

Photos (Top to Bottom): Leigh Broxham...just failed to prevent the third goal; Evan Berger was used as a substitute by Melbourne Victory; Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick...half-time substitutions changed Melbourne's second-half performance for the better [PlessPix]

Seongnam Ilhwa of South Korea finished top of Group E in the Asian Champions League when they beat bottom-side Melbourne Victory 3-2 at home on a rain-drenched pitch this evening.

Melbourne were completely outclassed in the first half and did not manage a single shot at goal. They also failed to win a single corner in the opening half.

Ironically, it was an Australian who almost put the Koreans ahead. In the 26th minute, former Adelaide United defender, Sasa Ognenovski, smashed a powerful header from a corner against Mitch Langerak’s left-hand post.

Seongnam led 1-0 at the interval through a splendid goal by Jeon Kwang-Jin in the 29th minute. Man-of-the-match Namkung Do beat two defenders on the right before playing the ball across the box for Kwang-Jin to side-foot home from 15 metres.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick rang the changes at half-time. Substitute Mate Dugandzic equalised for the visitors within two minutes of the resumption, scoring with a fine low shot after a pass from Carlos Hernandez.

Jugandzic should have put Melbourne ahead in the 52nd minute when he found himself in a one-on-one with the Korean keeper, but he failed to get in a shot as the custodian blocked at his feet.

Jo Jae-Cheol went close for Seongnam in the 54th minute, his header flashing just wide of the left-hand post with Langerak diving full-length but failing to reach the ball.

A delightfully worked goal in the 74th minute restored Seongnam’s lead. The ball was played across the edge of the box from the left and Fabricio Souza back-heeled it wide to the right, where the onrushing Do controlled and cut inside before smashing home an unstoppable left-foot shot.

Tom Pondeljak drew Melbourne level again in the 78th minute with a marvellous strike to finish a move involving Grant Brebner and Hernandez.

Langerak produced an excellent save in the 82nd minute to deny Cho Byung-Kuk.

It was only a temporary reprieve, however, and a minute later, the home side were again ahead.

A long clearance by Seongnam’s goalkeeper was headed on and wide to the left to Jae-Cheol, who lobbed the advancing goalkeeper with his right foot. The ball bounced into the net to make it 3-2 before Leigh Broxham could get back to clear.

With two minutes remaining, substitute Luke Pilkington missed a glorious chance to equalise when he fluffed his header at the far post following a cross from the right by Diogo Ferreira.

Seongnam fought to kill off the game in the three minutes of stoppage time and almost scored twice.

In the 92nd minute, Song Ho-Young hesitated in shooting and then managed only a tame drive following an accurate cut-back from the byline on the right by Do, while in the 93rd minute, the same player was much too selfish and shot wide when an un-marked team-mate to his left was waiting in vain for the ball.

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