Late goal denies Victory in AFC Champions League defeat to Sanfrecce
A goal from Keisuke Honda wasn’t enough to save Melbourne Victory from a second straight defeat in the 2019 AFC Champions League, losing 2-1 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan on Tuesday night.
In his first club game in his homeland in 12 years, Honda scored a second-half equaliser to seemingly have Victory on track for their first point in the 2019 ACL.
But the visitors were unable to hold on, with Daiki Watari heading in four minutes from time to seal the win for Sanfrecce.
Earlier, teenager Shunki Higashi had given the home side the lead a little more than two minutes into the match.
After last week’s 3-1 loss at home against Daegu, Victory are now the only team in Group F without a point after the opening two games.
Victory hadn’t won any of their previous 19 away games in the ACL so were desperate to make a strong start.
But that wasn’t the case as 18-year-old Higashi finished off some great work by Brazilian striker Patric to sweep the hosts in front inside three minutes.
Despite the early setback, Victory enjoyed large spells of possession to keep Sanfrecce pinned deep in their own half.
Honda had Victory’s best chance in the first-half but his piercing drive from distance was off target.
The marquee man continued to pull the strings and went even closer to drawing Victory level 13 minutes after the break with another long-range effort which went just over the bar.
Lawrence Thomas showed great reflexes to stop Tsukasa Morishima’s effort, while James Troisi also forced a good save out of the Sanfrecce keeper as the match began to get stretched late on.
And with a little under 20 minutes, Honda finally found his range.
A flowing team move ended with Storm Roux being released down the right and his cutback was perfectly placed and weighted for the 32-year-old to pounce.
Both sides had chances to win it after that but it was Watari who delivered, arriving in the box at the right time to head past Thomas from close range.
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Victory will now turn their attention to Hyundai A-League duties on Saturday night with a clash against Brisbane Roar at Marvel Stadium.
Their next outing in the AFC Champions League comes on Wednesday, April 10 with a trip to China to face powerhouses Guangzhou Evergrande.