Victory ACL venture finds instant trouble
Melbourne Victory's Asian Champions League aspirations took a big hit, suffering a 3-1 opening-game defeat to a classy Daegu FC at AAMI Park.
Ola Toivonen capped his return from illness with a classy finish to cap Victory's impressive opening stanza but they were outfoxed by the South Koreans.
The loss raises the stakes of next Tuesday's visit to Japanese club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who lost 2-0 to Guangzhou Evergrande in the other Group F match.
Brazilian Cesinha starred for the visitors, with his equaliser just three minutes after Toivonen's opener proving key, sending the 300-strong Daegu contingent among the 5572 crowd into delirium.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat lamented the poor start.
"We need to be more desperate and clinical, they're fine margins. It's an opportunity missed for us,'' Muscat said.
"It's not uphill. There's a lot of football to be played. When we sit down and assess this game - it could have been so different."
Daegu coach Andre Gaspar and Cesinha both admitted they were nervous for their Asian debut, but were thrilled with their recovery.
"At the start of the game the players were overwhelmed. We gave away a lot of silly passes and counter attacks. The coach changed the formation at halftime and we settled,'' Cesinha said.
Toivonen and Keisuke Honda relished their reunion, as the striker's return signalled one of Victory's more impressive halves of 2018-19.
Perhaps aware that the continent was watching on, Honda oozed confidence, demanding the ball and controlling the tempo will threading through some killer balls.
Toivonen was also looking ominous after missing last Saturday's Newcastle Jets clash due to illness.
Daegu's three-man defence struggled to contain the ex-PSV Eindhoven man, who was a threat whether dropping deep, making runs in behind or creating.
Toivonen whipped in a dangerous cross that strike partner Kosta Barbarouses headed onto the crossbar.
A role reversal then saw the Swede then opened the scoring, as he cleverly got in front of his opponent to meet Barbarouses' cross and superbly angle the ball low to the far post and out of the keeper's reach.
Daegu's own front three oozed class, with Brazilian duo Cesinha and Edgar Silva linking up with Korean ace Kim Dae-won.
And Cesinha equalised three minutes later, with the Corinthians youth product cleverly peeling back into a pocket of space, enabling him to unleash a superb volley Dario's lay-off.
Victory produced one more moment of magic before the break, as Broxham zipped in a quality low ball, with Toivonen's exquisite first touch finding Honda who ghosted in to blast it goalward only for keeper Cho Hyeon-woo to save.
Cesinha's surging run just after the restart fell to Hwang Soon-min, who scored via a huge deflection off Storm Roux.
The killer blow came in the 61st minute, when Edgar Silva beat Thomas Deng to the ball, before scooping it home.
Victory pulled their Asian Champions League sponsor at the 11th hour, just 24 hours after the announcement after confusion reigned about the sponsor's activities.
While the Asian Football Confederation rubber-stamped the deal with Hong-Kong-based media agency Kaishi Entertainment, Victory chiefs opted out.
Suspected of being a front for gambling company "KashBet" - which Kaishi denied - Victory took no risks, with AFC rules banning such arrangements while they also have a deal with Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
The last club to be penalised for donning a betting company on the front of their shirts were Cambodians Phnom Penh Crown FC, who were fined $42,350 (US$30,000) in March 2017.
Tuesday night's mix-up led to Victory ditching their navy blue home shirt for the white away strip.
MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Toivonen 28)
DAEGU FC 3 (Cesinha 31, Hwang 51, Edgar Silva 61)
Crowd: 5572 at AAMI Park
Victory (4-4-2): Thomas; Roux, Donachie, Deng (Brown 65), Broxham; Baena, Honda, Antonis, Troisi; Barbarouses, Toivonen (Athiu 77).
Daegu FC (3-4-3): Cho; B Park, Hong, W Kim; J Kim, Ryu (Nishi 46), Jung, Hwang (Jang 79); Edgar Silva, Cesinha, D Kim (Dario 89).
Referee: Alireza Faghani (IRAN)
Red cards: Nil.
DAVUTOVIC'S MAN OF THE MATCH
The Brazilian's class told with a goal and two assists. A world-class equaliser was pivotal, before his technical prowess told when he assisted Daega's second half sealers.