Group F: Melbourne Victory (AUS) 1-3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN)
Melbourne: Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima made it five wins from six games in Group F of the 2019 AFC Champions League with a 3-1 win over Australia’s Melbourne Victory on Wednesday.
Sanfrecce, who had already qualified for the last 16 as Group F winners, opened the scoring after just five minutes at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium courtesy of a header from Taishi Matsumoto.
Ola Toivonen’s free-kick briefly pulled the home side level with 20 minutes remaining, but quickfire goals from Yusuke Minagawa and Tsukasa Morishima secured the win for the visitors.
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The defeat for Melbourne, who finished at the bottom of the table with just one point, meant the A-League side were unable to hand coach Kevin Muscat and players Keisuke Honda and Carl Valeri a fairytale send off, with all three featuring in their last game for the club.
Muscat is standing down after almost six years in charge, having been at the club for almost 14 years as a player and coach, while former Australia Valeri is retiring.
Former Japan international Honda is departing after a one-season spell with the A-League club.
Sanfrecce had already secured qualification for the last 16 as Group F winners, but made the ideal start to their bid to secure a fifth win in a row as Matsumoto was on hand to head home at the back post after just five minutes after Hiroya Matsumoto had flicked on a right wing corner.
Melbourne finally made their presence felt in the contest midway through the first half as first Kosta Barbarouses saw his rising shot comfortably saved by Sanfrecce goalkeeper Hayashi Takuto before Toivonen poked an effort wide after being played in by Honda.
And it was Sweden’s Toivonen who pulled the home side level after 70 minutes with a superb free-kick.
But Melbourne were on level terms for just three minutes as Minagawa rounded off a flowing move from the visitors with a superb first-time finish from the edge of the area.
And just two minutes later Morishima’s dipping long-range strike gave Melbourne goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas no chance.
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