Melbourne Victory resuscitated their AFC Champions League hopes with a remarkable 2-1 win over Tianjin Teda on Wednesday.The home side scored two goals in three minutes on the stroke of halftime to secure their first win in Group E and provide interim coach Mehmet Durakovic with his maiden success.
It was a result Durakovic will look back on fondly after Victory trailed 1-0 following Chen Tao’s fantastic solo effort for the Chinese visitors on 37 minutes.
Just seven minutes later Victory dragged themselves back into the contest through a slice of Carlos Hernandez brilliance.
The Costa Rican’s hopeful 35-yard free kick attempt turned into something more substantial when it evaded Tianjin goalkeeper Zhao Yanming into the net.
But much of the credit for the goal must go to Victory captain Adrian Leijer, whose run for the ball caused the Chinese stopper to hesitate at the crucial moment.
Two minutes later, Victory was a goal up after Kevin Muscat slotted home from the penalty spot for his third goal of the campaign.
Muscat was presented with the chance when the lively Kruse was bodychecked by visiting captain Cao Yang inside the box following Archie Thompson’s through ball.
It was redemption for Muscat, who was the guilty offender in the build-up to Tianjin Teda’s goal.
The experienced defender was dispossessed by Chen Tao, who went on a mazy run before unleashing a shot past a despairing Tando Velaphi in the Victory goal.
While the second-half didn’t produce any goals, there was no shortage of entertainment for the 5,683 crowd.
Isaka Cernak spurned Victory’s best chance to kill off the Chinese visitors just four minutes into the second half.
The former North Queensland Fury man was played in by a lovely Kruse cross, but somehow blazed his shot over the top of an empty net when it seemed easier to score.
Speaking of Kruse, the Socceroo international was stretchered off in the dying moments with a suspected knee injury.
Tianjin had the better of the second-half opportunities, particularly late on as they enjoyed a man advantage following Surat Sukha’s 82nd minute dismissal for a second bookable offence.
While they remain bottom of Group E with four points, Victory trails Tianjin by three points following Gamba Osaka’s win over Jeju United.
Gamba triumphed 3-1 over the visiting South Korean side thanks mostly to a brace from Brazilian striker Adriano, who jumped ship from city rivals Cerezo Osaka in the January transfer window.
In Group A, Sepahan’s run of three straight wins came to an end with a 1-0 loss at Al Gharafa, sparked by Ivorian striker Amara Diane’s 19th-minute winner.
Their loss allowed Al Hilal to join them on nine points at the top of the table with a thrilling 3-2 win at Al Jazira.
The hosts led 2-0 at the half-time break following goals from Ali Makbhout and Abdullah Qasem, but Al Hilal rocketed back into the game with a brace to Yasser Al Qahtani and a late winner from Romanian Mirel Radoi.
Shandong Luneng edged closer to progression from Group G with a 5-0 thrashing of Arema Indonesia, one that sees them leap into second on the table ahead of Cerezo Osaka.
Cerezo goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon failed to account for Lee Dong-Gook’s 77th-minute strike as group leaders Jeonbuk Motors ran out 1-0 winners.
Finally, bottom-placed Group C club Piroozi Athletic are all but eliminated following a 3-1 loss at home to Bunyodkor.