Nabbout ecstatic to be back at 'biggest competition in Asia'
Kashima: Melbourne Victory's match-winner Andrew Nabbout expressed his delight at returning to the AFC Champions League following the A-League side's 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers in the play-offs on Tuesday.
Having weathered a Kashima storm in the first half, Melbourne netted the tie's only goal on 54 minutes when Nabbout was on hand to fire home a deflected effort past Kwoun Sun-tae.
Custodian Lawrence Thomas then put on a goalkeeping clinic to deny the 2018 champions as the A-League side held out for a famous victory.
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Australia forward Nabbout, 27, hailed the team's performance and insisted everything had gone according to plan at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
"We had to work hard, especially considering the amount of games we’ve played in the last month or so," he said. "So the boys were phenomenal in terms of the structure. We had a clear game plan from the start and we executed it to perfection.
"We frustrated them and we caught them on the counter and got the goal. So it was a very well-rounded performance from the boys."
The win in Japan sees Nabbout and Melbourne return to the AFC Champions League and a Group E that includes China PR's Beijing FC, Chiangrai United of Thailand and Korea Republic side FC Seoul. The significance of which is not lost on the Melbourne-born man.
"It’s the biggest competition in Asia," declared Nabbout. "It’s the be all and end all really, and on top of that it’s our first win away from home in the AFC Champions League ever.
"It’s good to be part of history and it’s nice to etch one in the history books."
As well as being a Continental milestone for his club, the match in Kashima had particular meaning for Nabbout.
Before joining Melbourne last July, the Australian played for Kashima's rivals Urawa Red Diamonds in the 2018 and 2019 J.League seasons.
"It was good to come back, obviously I spent two years here and it was nice to come back and it was a good test for the boys," he said.
"It was really cold to be honest, but I’m ecstatic that we’re through to the group stages. We’ll just keep the ball rolling from here.
"The boys are delighted but we’ve now got to fly back to Melbourne and have a trip to Perth on the weekend so we have to recover very quickly."
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