Melbourne Victory secured a vital three points in their opening Asian Champions League fixture against Thai side Chiangrai United on Tuesday night, but their performance in the 1-0 win has left a lot to be desired.
Looking nothing like the side that battered Bali United from pillar to post in their last home ACL fixture, the four-time A-League champions were poor in both defence and attack against the Thai champions – perhaps fortunate that, for all their struggles, Chiangrai was worse.
Nonetheless, in a silver lining for Victory, coach Carlos Salvachúa remains undefeated in Asia with the three points, they have scored seven goals against none conceded in the ACL, have definite room for improvement and, in the end, the most important thing when it comes to continental football is the result.
In a sign of things to come, a Kamsoba cutback to Migjen Basha at the top of the penalty area saw the Albanian sky a shot over the bar in the fourth minute of play, before a turnover by Adama Traore allowed Sivakorn Tiatrakul to set up a shot for Chaiyawat Buran – which he promptly shanked wide – two minutes later.
It was one of a number of sloppy turnovers early doors from Victory, who were fortunate that their unsettled Thai opponents lacked the quality to punish them for their errors.
The sloppiness was combined with physicality; James Donachie bowling over Bill in defence, Tanasak Srisai cleaning up Brandon Lauton and a sloppy challenge from Basha on Chotipat Poomkaew – which earned him a yellow – among the early highlights.
Taking matters into his own hands, Victory captain Ola Toivonen almost produced the game's opener in the 22nd minute when, after some sharp build-up play from Andrew Nabbout and Kamsoba, he cut inside and drove in a shot that forced a supreme save from Apirak Worawong.
Worawong, though, could do little a minute later when Srisai dragged down Victory’s towering Swede as he attempted to defend a cross from Nabbout.
And while the 24-year-old custodian did guess right when he dove to his left on the resulting spot-kick, he wasn’t able to deny Toivonen as Victory took the lead.
Some tricky work from Kamsoba teed Nabbout up with a chance to make it 2-0 from the top of the box in the 31st minute only for the Victory attacker, in an area he really needs to be hitting the target from, to blast high and wide.
Up the other end, Brazilian attacker Bill was brought down by Lauton in the 33rd minute to allow Sivakorn Tiatrakul, one of the Thai side’s best, to try his luck with a free-kick that went wide.
A second free-kick in first-half injury time from the seven-time Thai international went straight into Lawrence Thomas’s breadbasket.
Victory had another golden chance to extend their lead in the 58th minute when a Basha corner found Nabbout in a yard of space at the top of the six-yard box, only for the Socceroo attacker's header to clatter off the frame of the goals and back into play.
Disappointingly for the 4156 fans at AAMI Park, the next real chance of note took until the 80th minute to arrive; delivered when Kamsoba was played in on goal after some sublime build-up play from Marco Rojas.
Hesitating to pull the trigger, the Burundi international eventually put the ball over the bar with an effort that was perhaps a perfect encapsulation of the maddening haphazardness that dominated Tuesday night.
Capping off a frustrating night for the visitors, substitute Thirayu Banhan received a straight red card in the 90th minute when he leapt in with a horror, two-footed potential leg-breaker on Jay Barnett.
Toivonen had one final chance to add a second with almost the last kick of the game, but his casual attempted flick on toward goal from close-range was saved by Warawong.
"I think in the second half [we were nervous]," Toivonen said post-game.
"I think in the first we controlled the game quite well. They were throwing long balls at us and we controlled the second balls quite well.
"I think we were a little bit scared of not winning the game."