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Toivonen: Melbourne Victory had to overcome nerves

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Ola Toivonen-Melbourne

Melbourne: Ola Toivonen has admitted that Melbourne Victory had to survive a tense second half to claim a hard-fought 1-0 win over Thailand’s Chiangrai United in their opening 2020 AFC Champions League Group E match on Tuesday. 

Swedish forward Toivanen’s penalty midway through the first half proved the difference at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium as the Australian side moved to the top of the standings, with both Beijing FC and FC Seoul not in action.

But, while the hosts were the better side, their last win in the competition came back in April 2018 and they picked up just one point in six games in a disastrous 2019 campaign, something their skipper alluded to.

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"It was good in the first half, we were in control,” said Toivonen, who scored two goals in four games in his side’s Continental campaign last year.

“But we were a little bit anxious in the second half because we haven't won a game in a long time and it felt like that.

“We were a little bit scared to really play out in the second half. But, it was the first game in the group, so it's always important to get a good start."

FULL-TIME | @gomvfc 🇦🇺 1-0 @crutdofficial 🇹🇭

🔝 The first 3⃣ points of #ACL2020's East Zone go to hosts Melbourne Victory, who go top of Group E.

— #ACL2020 (@TheAFCCL) February 11, 2020

While Melbourne’s form in the AFC Champions League since Toivonen’s arrival may have been poor, the 33-year-old’s goal means he maintained his record of having scored in every home game he’s appeared in on the Continent.

The visitors defended well early on, but Toivonen forced goalkeeper Apirak Worawong into a fine flying save in the 22nd minute, before Tanasak Srisai upended the Swede in the box as the home side were awarded a penalty which he coolly converted.

Melbourne had the better of the second-half opportunities, but the visitors remained in the contest until the end and caused the hosts problems with their direct approach.

Group E - MD1: Melbourne Victory 1-0 Chiangrai United

"We knew they were going to play the long balls and it was not like they were playing tika-taka style or anything,” said Toivonen.

“They were throwing the ball long to the big guy up front and went for the second ball. It's hard to defend against.

“You really need to win every second ball to control the game and I think in the first half we controlled the second balls and could play off of that, and in the second half I think it was the reverse."

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Melbourne’s win sees them add to the Preliminary Round 2 victory over Bali United and, most notably, the stunning away win over 2018 champions Kashima Antlers in the Play-off Round.

But, although they are enjoying a reversal of fortunes on the Continent, their domestic form has been a cause for concern of late as they are on a five-game winless run and there remains plenty of room for improvement.

Andrew Nabbout headed against the woodwork and Elvis Kamsoba missed a gilt-edged chance after the restart as the three points could, and perhaps should, have been put beyond doubt earlier in the contest.

"We just have to keep going; I think we get a little break now so we can train and work on our finishing,” added Toivonen.

“We haven't done that in a while because we've really been [in] a hectic schedule. So let’s keep going, keep training, and we’ll finish the chances. That's just what it takes."

Melbourne travel to Korea Republic to take on FC Seoul next Tuesday, while Chiangrai host Beijing FC in northern Thailand in what will be their first-ever home AFC Champions League game.

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