Victory’s ACL prospects take beating
SANFRECCE Hiroshima have denied Melbourne Victory and Keisuke Honda in his Japanese homecoming, finding a late goal to dent the A-League champions' Asian Champions League ambitions.
The J League club won 2-1 on Tuesday night, scoring either side of Honda's equaliser to secure a result against the run of play.
Teenage talent Shunki Higashi netted after just three minutes and Daiki Watari put a header past Lawrence Thomas with four minutes remaining, just as Victory thought they'd nabbed a share of the spoils.
Honda at least provided a moment to savour for the Victory fans and the many locals that turned out to support the national team legend on his home soil.
The 32-year-old, who enjoyed Victory's best chances as they chased the game, finally found the back of the net on 71 minutes.
Anthony Lesiotis, whose lax marking allowed Brazilian forward Patric to set up Higashi for Sanfrecce's opener, responded well to set up Victory's response.
His through-ball was dodged by James Troisi, allowing Storm Roux to break through the Sanfrecce defence and cut back for Honda, who scored with a sliding volley.
Kevin Muscat's side appeared to have avoided another defeat in the competition, after their first-up loss to Daegu FC, and even pushed for a late winner.
Watari's header from substitute Yoshifumi Kashiwa's pinpoint cross ended those hopes in heartbreaking fashion.
The late gut-punch soured Victory's battling effort.
Muscat lost Thomas Deng and Terry Antonis to injury in the week leading up to the game, with key striker Ola Toivonen also playing an hour with a stomach bug, looking far from his imposing self.
Instead, Victory must now confront a long plane flight home knowing they need a miracle to progress beyond the group stage.
They'll resume their campaign on April 10 against powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, needing a win in China to have any chance of continuing on.
Given Victory continue to walk wounded and are now six games winless in all competitions, they'd probably just take a decent performance on their return to domestic football when they play Brisbane Roar at home on Saturday night.