Melbourne Victory keep ACL hopes alive

by AAP on Apr 20, 2011

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Australia's Asian Champions League hopes have turned around entirely in 24 hours, with Melbourne Victory joining Sydney FC as live chances to advance to the last 16.

The 10-man Victory resurrected their chances by stunning Group E leaders Tianjin Teda 2-1 at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

It came the day after Sydney FC beat another Chinese side, Shanghai Shenhua, with a last-gasp goal to put themselves into the reckoning for a top two finish in their group.

Helping the Victory, Japan's Gamba Osaka beat Jeju United 3-1 in the other Group E game on Wednesday night.

It means Melbourne are just three points behind Tianjin Teda with two games remaining, with their next match at home against Gamba on May 4.

Two Victory goals in the minute prior to halftime turned the match on its head after the home side trailed.

Tianjin grabbed an early lead when striker Chen Tao dispossessed Victory skipper Kevin Muscat mid-pitch, ran and finished sweetly in the 37th minute.

But the Victory stunned the Chinese side in the 44th minute, when Tianjin goalkeeper Zhao Yanming failed to deal with a curling Carlos Hernandez free-kick from 30 metres.

Then 60 seconds later, China national team defender Cao Yang was adjudged to have fouled Robbie Kruse in the box.

Muscat made amends for his error by slotting home the penalty to give his side a halftime lead.

In a niggly match with several melees and nine yellow cards, Victory defender Surat Sukha was sent off for a second yellow with eight minutes remaining.

But the Victory defended resolutely before and after Sukha's dismissal.

Goalkeeper Tando Velaphi made an important save from substitute He Yang on 54 minutes, while midfielder Leigh Broxham made a quality tackle in injury time to deny Tianjin's only other sniff of a second half equaliser.

Bizarrely the match started in teeming rain with the sliding stadium roof open, because Tianjin Teda insisted on similar conditions to their familiarisation session there the previous day when the roof had been open.

Under Asian Football Confederation rules, both teams must agree to any change in stadium conditions from their familiarisation sessions.

Tianjin coach Arie Haan made no apologies for forcing the match to be played in wet conditions.

"Football is open. It is not an indoor sport," the former Dutch international said.

"I don't like it (the roof)."

Victory striker Robbie Kruse was stretchered off with a knee problem, but caretaker coach Mehmet Durakovic said initial medical advice suggested it was not a serious injury.

It was Durakovic's first win since taking over from the sacked Ernie Merrick and he was thrilled with how his side was coming to grips with his game plan.

"There is belief (we can qualify). We've been really working hard on the structure I want to play and the results are coming our way now," he said.