Victory revive ACL campaign, Sydney snare vital point


Melbourne Victory's Asian Champions League campaign is alive and kicking, while Sydney FC snatched a late draw to give them a sliver of hope.

With Victory third and the Japanese side last in Group F going into their match, both sides desperately chased the three points in an entertaining affair at AAMI Park.

A loss or even a draw would have made it tough for Kevin Muscat's men to advance past the group stage, but a Kosta Barbarouses strike in the 90th minute sealed a vital home win.

Despite the results, Victory remain third on goal difference with two matches remaining in the group stage.

But they have drawn level with second-placed Ulsan Hyundai on five points after the Koreans were defeated 1-0 by Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG, who top the group with 10 points and have already qualified for the knockout stage.

"It's a massive scalp for the football club, a massive scalp for Australian football and it's a proud night for us," Muscat said.

Melbourne and Sydney. Image: Getty

"To take four points off them over two games ... we're still well in the competition.

"We'll go into the next game with something to play for."

Muscat's men travel to South Korea to play Ulsan before hosting Shanghai to round out the group stage.

However, there was one sour note for the home side, with striker Besart Berisha furious at being substituted in the 70th minute.

Gesticulating and yelling, the fiery Albanian stormed past Muscat to take his place on the bench.

"No one's happy when they come off, but I'm more interested in what the ones who are going to come on are going to do," Muscat said.

"The contribution from the boys who came on was exactly what was required for the team ... that's what I'm interested in more.

"I'll have a look at it and whatever those conversations are (with Berisha) they will remain private."

Meanwhile, Matt Simon broke his two-year goal drought to give Sydney FC's disastrous campaign a lifeline.

The Sky Blues drew 1-1 with Group H leaders Kashima Antlers in Japan on Tuesday night, falling behind to another set piece before a stirring second-half fightback paved the way for Simon's 70th-minute equaliser.

It was the pugnacious striker's first ACL goal in nine years and one that could yet help the reigning A-League champions return from the brink.

That will depend how second-placed Suwon Bluewings fare against third-placed Shanghai Shenhua later on matchday four.

With two home defeats, two away draws and an unenviable goal difference, Sydney's chances of progressing from dead last remain slim, and Alex Brosque will rue skewing a shot agonisingly wide with 15 minutes remaining.

"I thought we were the better side, we deserved to win the game," Graham Arnold said.

"Disappointing to concede off a set piece again. Kashima have scored three goals against us, all three from corners - not a goal in general play."

Arnold wasn't lying when he said he would play some youngsters in the absence of regular stars Milos Ninkovic, Bobo, Michael Zullo and Brandon O'Neill, handing Chris Zuvela his competitive debut and Anthony Kalik his first start.

Judging by the sheer youth of Sydney's bench - only Charles Lokolingoy had played a single A-League minute this season - Arnold was prepared to sacrifice what sliver of continental hope remained in favour of seeing out his side's domestic domination before departing to coach the Socceroos.

For all that, it was two senior players at fault for Kashima's opener off a corner just before the half-hour mark.

A defensive mix-up between Brosque and Josh Brillante saw the latter head straight to Mu Kanazaki, who met the ball flush with his own head and didn't miss at the far post.

That blunder aside, the first-half incarnation of Sydney were far from uncomfortable but, though they pushed and probed, were mostly pedestrian in attack.

Adrian Mierzejewski carved a rare opening just before the break, flooding forward and playing in Kalik, but the 20-year-old's finish let him down.

With an hour gone and everything to do, Arnold introduced Lokolingoy and the Sky Blues sparked.

It pre-empted Mierzejewski's next foray and the Polish winger, overlooked on Tuesday for an international recall, passed to Luke Wilkshire.

The fullback's cross was spot on and Simon headed home, just in time to earn his second yellow card of the tournament and a suspension for matchday five.

It may not have ended there, and Brosque's tight-angled finish practically brushed the outside of the far post before Simon came close and Leo Silva missed a late shot for the hosts.