Melbourne Victory found themselves facing a similar problem to the Socceroos against a side who sat back diligently...
A week on from their 3-1 loss at home to South Korean side Daegu FC, Melbourne Victory came up against a formidable opponent in the form of 2018 J1 League runners up Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Victory were suffocated in the early stages by Sanfrecce’s intense pressing. In spite of controlling the game in the first half, Victory failed to register a shot on target. Sanfrecce opted to retreat and hold their own defensively in the second period, ultimately coming away 2-1 winners in a second half where the Victory could have capitalised on some glorious chances if not for poor use of the ball.
Hiroshima’s strength in adaptability was on full display against the Victory, with the side opting to sit back in defence and remain compact to combat the flurry of Navy Blue attacks in the second half.
Besart Berisha, on the books at Sanfrecce, was unsighted even on the bench against his former club, continuing a strange period in Japan for the A-League’s greatest scorer of goals ever.
Additionally, Japanese football’s exceptional youth development was on full display as Sanfrecce’s starting eleven were filled with youngsters, including 18-year-old goalscorer Shunki Higashi.
Melbourne Victory Ratings
Lawrence Thomas — 7
One would be ill advised to criticise Thomas for either of Sanfrecce’s goals as it was the Victory #1 who often kept his side in the game. Made a smart stop from an unexpected Higashi long range effort and stood up strongly to push a dipping Tsukasa Morishima shot over the bar. Again kept Victory in the match as he saved one on one with Patric.
Storm Roux — 7
Some lovely interchanges on his flank to get in to the Hiroshima box ended ultimately in some poor crosses. Reminded A-League fans of his clear connection with Honda as he got on the end of a brilliant Lesiotis through ball to cross to the patient Japanese maestro, who finished well.
James Donachie — 5
Poor turnovers and uncertainty on the ball pervaded his 90 minutes.
Leigh Broxham — 7.5
Made what would have been a game changing sliding challenge in the box had the Victory’s attacking quartet shown better quality going forward. Calm and composed all throughout the ninety.
Corey Brown — 5
Displayed a lack of urgency in the build up to prevent Patric’s cross for the opener. Cleared and played the ball out poorly at times when Muscat no doubt would have preferred to have seen better composure.
Raul Baena — 6.5
Rarely sighted in the first half beyond a few erroneous challenges. Started out wide in a role he’s clearly not comfortable with. A determined and energetic second period redeemed his rating.
Anthony Lesiotis — 7.5
Displayed some positive industry to retrieve the ball several times and was hugely confident in his tackling. Played a sublime ball through to Roux for Victory’s equaliser. May be a future classy deep lying playmaker that Victory fans will no doubt be excited to keep after he did his name no disservice tonight.
Keisuke Honda — 7
Captained the side and lead with his physicality and dictating of Victory’s tempo. Although he held possession well, the marquee man rarely fashioned anything proactive with the ball in the first half.
Had a near incredible moment come to fruition as a give-and-go with Barbarouses led to a driving run and subsequent shot fly just beyond the crossbar. Notched a solid goal on his return to Japan and was a key part of Victory’s resurgence in the second half.
James Troisi — 7
Found it difficult to exhibit his creativeness in the first half. Had a much better second period, as did the rest of his side, demonstrating his quality as a player in a moment where he shifted the ball back to his left foot on the edge of the box to force Hirotsugu Nakabayashi in to a tough reaching save.
In a moment of sheer football intelligence, the shaved head of Troisi glistened in the stadium lights as he spun and let a through ball carry through to the run of Roux for Victory’s equaliser.
Kosta Barbarouses — 7.5
Chased every ball incessantly and never ran out of energy. Pounced on a mistimed challenge with impressive impetus, but his resultant shot was well blocked.
Had a strong showing and could not really be faulted beyond some poor touches where he appeared to overrun with the ball.
Ola Toivonen — 5
Contested well aerially but was rarely able to influence the match. A quiet and relatively uninspiring night where he could have taken control of proceedings.
Carl Valeri — 7
Victory began to show much more desire going forward as Valeri arrived on the pitch.
Kenny Athiu — 7
Had a positive impact off the bench, making his presence felt with his aerial ability, smart movement and intent passing.