Both Victory and Sydney FC progress to knockout phase of ACL
Melbourne Victory created its own piece of history during the week, winning through to the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League for the first time in five attempts after it defeated J-League team Gamba Osaka 2-1 at AAMI Park on Tuesday evening.
Outgoing club favourite Archie Thompson, who earlier in the week announced he wasn’t going to be playing for the club next season, played a part in writing that history by scoring the goal that put Victory 2-nil up against the visiting Japanese team.
Needing to win to ensure progress to the knockout phase of the competition, Victory got off to an ideal start when awarded a penalty for a handball in the 13th minute which Beshart Berisha converted. Just after the quarter hour mark, Thompson expertly finished a fine Kostas Barbarouses cut back, first time, to double Victory’s lead.
The crowd of just over 10,000 at AAMI Park had to endure a few nervous moments late in the game when Gamba Osaka’s Ademilson scored to put Victory on the back foot, but it held out to secure passage into the knockout round of 16 together with Sydney FC, which had already secured safe passage before its 1-nil away loss to Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday.
Victory’s Archie Thompson was all smiles in a post-match interview with Fox Sports.
“It’s just beautiful to obviously be part of something again. It’s the first time we’ve got through to the group stage. You can’t get rid of me just yet,” he said.
He acknowledged the difficulty of preparing for the ACL matches after the end of the regular season.
“It’s hard too because we’re not actually playing weekend games, so we haven’t got that match fitness, but this is a great result. I cramped a bit at the end. Danny cramped up and that’s because we’re not playing our weekly games. It’s credit to the boys. We know they were going to be a good side. We just look forward to the next round and anything’s possible.”
Victory’s win means it has finished second in Group G and will next meet the winner of Group E, either China’s Jiangsu Suning or Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai, in a home leg on 17 May, followed a week later by the away leg.
Sydney FC, which topped its group, will next play China’s richest club Shandong Luneng, first in an away leg, before returning to the Sydney Football Stadium for the return leg on 25 May.