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AFC Recap: Melbourne Victory 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Leonardo celebrates a stunning free kick to draw Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors level with Melbourne Victory.
(Photo Credit: The-AFC.com)
After taking the weekend off, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors traveled down under to take on A-League's Melbourne Victory in the first knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League. With the game doubling up as a farewell to the home side's Archie Thompson, the K-League champions were hoping that fate would not favour the Australian side too much.

Eric Cantona once famously said "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think the sardines will be thrown into the sea". It seems however that they are also avid followers of Melbourne Victory as the first leg took place at the Rectangular Stadium on a pitch covered by the winged locals. Whilst operating as a handy indicator of where the action was not taking place, the humorous mass seagull intrusion did little to detract from what was a tense game on Australian soil.

Choi Kang-hee made one change to the team that had won 3-2 away at Suwon Bluewings nine days prior. In defence, Choi Jae-soo, Lim Jong-eun, Choi Kyu-baek and Choi Chul-soon lined up from left to right respectively. The central midfield pairing of Jang Yun-ho and the returning Kim Bo-kyung sat behind Lee Jae-sung in attacking midfield. Leonardo and Han Kyo-won manned the left and right flanks with Lee Dong-gook playing as the lone striker. Kwoun Sun-tae took up his usual position between the sticks.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Starting 11 versus Melbourne Victory (Image generated using Line-Up 11 app)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Starting 11 versus Melbourne Victory (Image generated using Line-Up 11 app)
As well as being the final home game for Archie Thompson, Melbourne Victory would also use this game to offer final starts for the influential Matthieu Delpierre and Kosta Barbarouses. Lining up in a 4-3-3, the team featured Georgievski, Delpierre, Ansell and Geria across the back, Bonzanic, Valeri and Broxham in midfield, and the attack consisting of Thompson, Berisha and Barbarouses.

There was little time for the visitors to settle as the home team went about pressing them from the off. It only took four minutes of the game for the deadlock to be broken. Lim Jong-eun failed to sufficiently deal with the ball into the box, his header clearing only as far as an awaiting Broxham whose acrobatic efforts from saw the ball head back into the six yard box. Melbourne Victory's top scorer Besart Berisha pounced on this opportunity by heading home from close range, offering the Korean champions early evidence of why is he was the man to be fearful of.

Melbourne Victory's lead only lasted eight minutes however as Han Kyo-won's break away resulted in him being pulled down by Delpierre on the edge of the box. The defender was shown a yellow for his troubles as Jeonbuk set up to take a free kick from a very dangerous area. Brazilian winger Leonardo stepped up to take it and fired a powerful, dipping shot crashing into the net, leaving the Melbourne keeper rooted to the spot. A sublime equaliser.

As the opening half continued, both teams created numerous chances making for a tense encounter. While quiet for most of the night, seasoned striker Lee Dong-gook still found an opportunity to nearly make a mark on 36 minutes, controlling a ball on his chest with his back to goal, before turning and unleashing a stunning volley that stung the keepers gloves.

It has to be said, that despite conceding early on, the defending from Jeonbuk's centre-backs Lim Jong-eun and Choi Kyu-baek was decent, making key interceptions and tackles to prevent the home side from doubling their advantage. With both young players being new to the team this year, and with the exile of some of the more experienced players, these two are slowly beginning to form a reasonable partnership at the back, one which Choi Kang-hee can only hope improves as the season continues.

The Melbourne side started the second half as brightly as they began the first, nearly doubling their lead within two minutes of play recommencing. Bozanic broke the Jeonbuk back line and played a quick cross onto the head of Berisha. The A-League Team of the Year striker, with a free header at point blank range, failed to connect fully and glanced the ball well wide of the mark. The majority of the stadium thought it was a certain goal, and were surprised to see such an opportunity go to waste. Jeonbuk could count themselves lucky.

Han Kyo-won also continued to create chances, but also continued his poor control with his first touch letting him down each time he found himself in a goal scoring opportunity. Voted man-of-the-match after, he may have been involved in a lot of build-up play but his recent form would suggest that the Jeonbuk support should expect better from him.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory were also having problems with their in-form striker, with Berisha continuing to squander chances for the home side by blasting high wide as he had done in the first half. It was not to be the striker's day, despite his opening goal.

With little else of note in terms of play throughout this half, the 68th minute marked the farewell of Archie Thompson, with manager Kevin Muscat removing him from play to earn his standing ovation. Banners were raised in tribute and songs rang out from the stand. An emotional Thompson made it to the bench before the occasion took over and he broke down in tears. His influence in Melbourne and the A-League was clearly visible for all to see and there's no doubt the Australian side will miss his presence and leadership. As moving as it was, Jeonbuk will be hoping his final game in Jeonju will not see destiny pick his side when it comes to the scoresheet.

For the rest of the second half, Jeonbuk resorted to the unattractive long balls that they have become infamously renowned for, despite their more recent attempts to play football. Clearly happy to settle for a draw and soak up the pressure, the Korean team were afforded one final chance when Lopes was sent through on goal with minutes to spare, but he was unable to add to the away team's advantage.

Melbourne Victory's talisman Archie Thomson played his last home game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors  (Photo Credit: SBS)
Melbourne Victory's talisman Archie Thomson played his last home game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
(Photo Credit: SBS)
As the full time whistle went, Melbourne Victory will be pleased for their efforts here, but should also harbour some disappointment with chances they did not take, in particular the missed header early in the second half. They will need to cancel out an away goal to give themselves a decent shot, but it is unlikely the Berisha will not be as wasteful given a second round, meaning that the Australian side are far from dead and buried in this competition.

Overall, Jeonbuk will be happy to take an away goal back to Jeonju, a ground that has become quite the fortress in both domestic and continental competitions or recent, with no away team leaving with a win in 2016. With their habit of conceding in most matches though, their away goal advantage may not last long. I however doubt they will resort to such conservative tactics as they did in the second half here, ideally showing some of the incisive passes that have been evident in their more recent K-League matches.

There should be significantly less seagulls as well.

Final Score: Melbourne Victory 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Highlights can be viewed on YouTube here.

The preview for this game was carried out in association with East Asian Soccer Australia and hosted on their site. You can read it here. If you also want more information on the A-League as well as football in Asia, make sure to follow them on Twitter.

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