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Group F: Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN) 2-1 Melbourne Victory (AUS) 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hiroshima: A late goal from Daiki Watari earned Sanfrecce Hiroshima a hard earned 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory in their Group F encounter at Hiroshima Athletic Stadium on Tuesday.

With Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda playing his first competitive club match in Japan since he left Nagoya Grampus in 2007, it was he who had the first sight of goal but his effort was straight at Hirotsugu Nakabayashi.

But less than a minute after, the home side had the ball in the back of the net at the other end after Brazilian striker Patric, getting the better of the Melbourne defence, cut the ball back for Shunki Higashi to sidefoot the ball home to give his side a dream start.

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Despite the early set back, Kevin Muscat’s side looked to play on the front foot, as Hiroshi Jofuku’s men were happy to sit back and defend their lead and it was the visitors who had the better of the play to close out the half.

Melbourne survived a scare just before half time when Patric was played in one-on-one with Lawrence Thomas, but a last-ditch tackle from Leigh Broxham kept the score at 1-0 heading into half-time.

Melbourne’s Japanese superstar came close from long range on the hour mark, but he couldn’t get the ball to dip as Nakabayashi watched the ball sail over the goal.

It was then the turn of James Troisi to go close as the visitors pushed for an equaliser, but he saw his goal-bound effort well saved by Nakabayashi.

The visitors found their equaliser with 20 minutes remaining when Storm Roux was played into space on the right, sliding the ball across the box for Honda who made no mistake with the goal at his mercy.

But just when it looked like his goal would be enough to earn his side a point, Sanfrecce struck to make it more heartbreak on the road for Melbourne.

Substitute Yoshifumi Kashiwa delivered a perfect cross from out wide to find Watari, who ghosted into the box unmarked to head the ball past Thomas and seal the win for the home side.

Melbourne Victory face another away trip on Matchday Three when they travel to China to play Guangzhou Evergrande, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima are at home again against Daegu FC.

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