Another ACL loss for Victory

Melbourne Victory's poor Asian Champions League season continued as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat in South Korea to Daegu FC.

It leaves Kevin Muscat's side, who were already out of contention to reach the knockout phase, with just one point from their five Group F games.

Muscat took an under-strength side to Daegu that included just two players who had started their A-League elimination final win over Wellington five days earlier.

The dead rubber was a major distraction for Victory, who face Sydney FC in the A-League semi-final on Sunday.

The visitors went behind inside 10 minutes when Josh Hope fouled Kim Dae-won in the area and Brazilian striker Edgar buried his penalty past keeper Matt Acton.

But Victory were able to hold Daegu out for the rest of the first half and could have equalised just before the break. Hope teed up Jack Palazzolo on his starting debut but keeper Jo Hyeon-woo came out to smother his effort.

The Koreans doubled their lead early in the second half, despite Acton making a good save to keep out Jeong Tae-wook's header. The defender was able to follow up and net the rebound.

Victory's youthful team sought to get back in to the game and it took a couple of excellent saves from Jo to deny Kenny Athiu and substitute Elvis Kamsoba before the home side produced two more goals in the final 10 minutes.

Dae-won rifled in a spectacular third, beating the dive of Acton to find the top corner of the net, and Jung Seon-ho completed the scoring when he tapped in three minutes later.

It means Victory have lost all three of their away games in the group, conceding 10 goals in the process and scoring just once.

Muscat said: "Conceding the early goal made it very, very difficult for us. There were a lot of players that will gain some very good experience from that. However, we are disappointed not to get something out of the game."

Melbourne Victory are 7/2 to win the Grand Final and 12/5 to win their A-League semi-final against Sydney FC, who are 21/20 with the draw 5/2.

Trio rested for Sky Blues trip

Sydney FC have kept three players, including marquee Siem De Jong, back from Tuesday's Asian Champions League trip to Ulsan Hyundai.

Former Ajax midfielder De Jong is being rested for the club's A-League semi-final on Sunday against Melbourne Victory.

Captain Alex Brosque and full-back Rhyan Grant are the other players who will miss the penultimate round of the ACL in South Korea.

The Sky Blues need to beat Ulsan to retain any hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition, so coach Steve Corica cannot afford to send a severely weakened team.

The concern with injury-plagued De Jong is that he would not be able to play two games in quick succession, while Brosque has just overcome a minor heel injury and Grant strained his hamstring against Newcastle Jets a fortnight ago.

Midfielder Brandon O'Neill said: "We travelled with a pretty good full-strength squad.

"Obviously being in both competitions now we want to make sure we get through the group stage in the Asian Champions League and we are in a pretty good position to do that if we win both of our two games.

"We have to prepare for what is a massive, massive game on Sunday now – the Big Blue. The coaching staff will pick a team to make sure we can come over here and do the job, but then also go back and make sure we get ourselves to another A-League Grand Final."

Sydney FC are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League, while the Sky Blues are 2/1 to win the A-League Grand Final.

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Muscat likely to rest big names

Coach Kevin Muscat is likely to leave several big names behind when Melbourne Victory travel to South Korea for their Asian Champions League clash with Daegu FC on Wednesday.

Victory will be tempted to send a severely weakened team for their penultimate game in Group F, as they are already out of contention for the knockout phase of the ACL.

The reigning A-League champions must travel to face Sydney FC in next Sunday's A-League semi-final, and they will have one day less than the Sky Blues to prepare for the match.

Though Sydney also face a trip to South Korea, as they take on Ulsan Hyundai, they still retain hopes of qualifying from the group stages.

Speaking of their own dead rubber against Daegu, Muscat said he had some thinking to do about his team selection.

"We're not leaving until Sunday; whether players stay here, staff stay behind, we'll work our what's best for preparation and we'll take it from there," he added.

The coach will want to risk as few of his influential players as possible in Korea, bearing in mind the relative importance of their next two games.

Ola Toivonen, who scored the final goal in Victory's 3-1 elimination final win over Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park, is among the stars likely to stay behind.

Muscat was delighted with his strike, which came after A-League Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna had brought the visitors back into the match at 2-1.

"It was an excellent finish and Ola's been getting better and better and tonight was a really strong performance from him," said the coach.

Speaking of the overall performance of his side, Muscat added: "We created quite a few opportunities and earnt quite a few opportunities and scored some very good goals also.

"It was a contest where there wasn't much love lost out there, there was a battle – as finals are – and from us, I think we also kept our discipline and kept our heads in key moments and from there we exposed some areas that we wanted to try and break them down."

Melbourne Victory are 7/2 to win the A-League Grand Final.

Victory are 21/10 to win their semi-final against Sydney FC, who are 6/5 with the draw 5/2.

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Muscat pleased with draw

Coach Kevin Muscat was delighted with Melbourne Victory's commitment in their 1-1 draw with Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League.

Jai Ingham cancelled out Huang Bowen's opener in the first half at AAMI Park as the home side collected their first point in Group F.

With the reigning A-League champions making eight changes from their 1-0 defeat at Adelaide United at the weekend, Muscat fielded an inexperienced team against the Chinese side.

Victory had conceded nine goals and scored just two across their first three games in the ACL this year. Four of them had come in the first meeting of the teams in Guangzhou two weeks earlier but this time they performed well to secure a point.

"I'm really pleased for the players that were out there obviously; they worked really hard, understanding the quality of the opponent," said Muscat.

"We changed things a little bit in the way we set up and we created enough chances to obviously get the goal and had some more opportunities as well so it was a pleasing night."

The coach was delighted with the way Victory stuck to their game plan against Guangzhou, who are second in the group two points behind Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

"We were very disciplined and understood how we were going to try and gain ascendancy and gain an advantage tonight and with a plan, if you haven't got a certain amount of desire and a maximum commitment, a plan is worth nothing so tonight, very pleasing," he added.

"There's a challenge to some of the boys that are going to have to back up on Saturday and there's a lot of players who, there'll be players who come into the team and the challenge is laid down to everybody now."

Melbourne Victory are 5/1 to win the A-League Grand Final and 7/4 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 11/8 with the draw 13/5.

Ingham earns point for Victory

Melbourne Victory fielded an inexperienced side for their Asian Champions League home clash with Guangzhou Evergrande but were able to pick up their first point of the competition with a 1-1 draw.

Kevin Muscat's side are out of contention to qualify for the knockout phase, having lost their first three games including a 4-0 thrashing in Guangzhou earlier this month.

Muscat made eight changes from the team that lost their A-League game with Adelaide United four days earlier, saving both Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen for A-League finals duty.

Terry Antonis, who had missed the China trip with a knee injury, set up the first chance of the match in the opening two minutes at AAMI Park but saw Kenny Athiu head wide.

Antonis then tested keeper Liu Dianzuo with a well-struck shot after linking up with Elvis Kamsoba and Josh Hope.

Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas, restored to the starting side, did well to deny former Tottenham and Barcelona midfielder Paulinho but Guangzhou took the lead midway through the first half.

Paulinho picked up the ball deep in his own half and drove forward before cutting the ball back for Huang Bowen to slot past Thomas.

The home side were level within two minutes, thanks to Jai Ingham. The forward, who has only started one of Victory's 26 A-League games this season, grabbed his chance to fire home when Antoni's pass to Athiu was deflected into his path by defender Gao Zhunyi.

Thomas gathered at the second attempt as he dealt with a cross from He Chao before the interval and, in the second half, parried a drive from Yang Liyu before Zhang Linpeng fired into the side-netting.

Paulinho headed wide five minutes from time, with Guangzhou's final chance seeing Talisca scrape the post with a free-kick.

Melbourne Victory are 5/1 to win the A-League Grand Final and 7/4 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 11/8 with the draw 13/5.

Sky Blues still in the hunt

Sydney FC kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Asian Champions League knockout phase when they held Shanghai SIPG to a 2-2 draw in China.

Steve Corica's side have yet to win after four rounds of the group stages but have drawn three games, including back-to-back clashes with the Chinese team.

Adam le Fondre, who scored in the 3-3 draw with the Chinese Super League champions at Jubilee Oval earlier in the month, earned them a point with his second-half header this time.

The Sky Blues remain two points behind Shanghai SIPG, who are in the second qualifying spot in Group H, with two rounds left.

They are likely to have to win both of their remaining matches, away to Ulsan Hyundai and at home to Kawasaki Frontale, next month to have any chance of progressing.

Corica had named an unchanged team from the one that beat Perth Glory 1-0 in their last outing but star midfielder Milos Ninkovic felt unwell in the warm-up so he was withdrawn from the side.

Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne made early saves from Brazilians Hulk and Oscar before Sydney FC made the breakthrough on 33 minutes.

The move started with Rhyan Grant's run down the right and, after Reza Ghoochannejhad fed Anthony Caceres, he played in Brandon O'Neill who had made a run from deep. O'Neill directed his low shot perfectly behind keeper Yan Jungling into the corner of the net.

The home side made a switch at the break, sending on Elkeson, and coach Vitor Pereira was rewarded for the move just two minutes into the second half when the substitute beat le Fondre in the air to head home Oscar's corner.

Shanghai took the lead just before the hour mark when Wang Shenchao slammed home a cross from Zhang Wei on the volley. But three minutes later Sydney FC got back on terms, Siem De Jong's powerful cross being glanced home by the head of le Fondre.

Sydney FC are 2/1 to win the A-League Grand Final and 21/10 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/5 with the draw 5/2.

Wanderers hurt rivals’ chances

Western Sydney all but killed off Sydney FC's chances of winning the A-League Premier's Plate when they held the Sky Blues to a 1-1 draw in the derby at ANZ Stadium.

With Steve Corica's men needing victory to give themselves any realistic chance of catching Perth Glory and winning the premiership for the third consecutive season, it was their rivals who arguably were deserving of three points.

They conceded the opening goal to Alex Brosque's powerful low strike seven minutes into the game, but after Alexander Baumjohann levelled they looked the more likely team to grab a winning goal.

Their fans celebrated at the final whistle as though they had won, and coach Markus Babbel felt happy with the performance.

"They [the fans] have been through a lot this season," he said. "I think today they deserved a performance and I am very happy that the boys could bring a performance today."

Adam le Fondre forced a turnover which started the move that put the Sky Blues in front.

Anthony Caceres then burst through the middle and picked out skipper Brosque, who fired home his sixth goal against Wanderers from just outside the area.

Wanderers forward Mitchell Duke had two chances to level midway through the half, with keeper Andrew Redmayne saving his first effort and Duke then spurning another from a Baumjohann free kick.

A foul by Brandon O'Neill on Roly Bonevacia gave Wanderers the chance to equalise on 57 minutes.

Baumjohann struck his free kick from just outside the box low and hard and saw the ball deflect past Redmayne for Western Sydney's first goal against their rivals in four games.

The home side were unlucky to see Oriol Riera's header rebound off the woodwork, and late on substitute Abraham Majok beat the offside trap to home in on goal but missed from close range with only Redmayne to beat.

The Sky Blues are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League Grand Final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

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Reds up to fourth after stalemate

Adelaide United earned a point from a goalless draw away to Melbourne City that lifted them into the A-League top four.

The Reds moved a point clear of Wellington Phoenix with just two rounds left of the regular season, after an action-packed encounter at AAMI Park.

Both keepers were in superb form and the woodwork helped preserve the deadlock.

City keeper Eugene Galekovic was called into action first, when he made a save with his feet to deny Craig Goodwin, who had been slipped in by Ben Halloran.

Adelaide were relieved soon after as City midfielder Kearyn Baccus curled in a shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off the post.

The home side also struck the woodwork before the interval, substitute Nikola Mileusnic cutting inside and seeing his shot deflect off Ritchie De Laet and onto the post.

Galekovic made a double save at the other end to deny United, first stopping a George Blackwood effort and then thwarting Halloran's follow-up effort.

City again came close when Harrison Delbridge's header from inside the six-yard box from a Shayon Harrison set-piece was tipped onto the bar by Reds keeper Paul Izzo.

The frame of the goal was again rattled 15 minutes from time as Jamie Maclaren just failed to squeeze his shot past Izzo from a narrow angle. The keeper got a touch to the attempt to beat him at his near post and diverted it against the upright.

Adelaide will secure a top-four spot and a home final if they win both their remaining matches, though their next game is against defending champions Melbourne Victory on Good Friday.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

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Corica wants repeat display

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica has called for a repeat performance from his side in Saturday's derby, after praising their 3-3 Asian Champions League draw with Shanghai SIPG.

The Sky Blues are up against it in their bid to qualify for the knockout stage of the ACL, having picked up just two points from their first three games.

Three times they took the lead against the Chinese giants, only to be pegged back each time – finally by Elkeson's 89th-minute effort.

They will go into their return fixture in Shanghai later this month bottom of Group H and knowing a defeat would end their hopes of progressing.

Though they were made to pay for individual errors at Jubilee Oval, the overall display left Corica encouraged.

"I think if we play like that against any A-League team we will destroy them," said the coach. "That's what we want, we have improved, we're getting better, we've got players back now and we have good options off the bench."

The Sky Blues need to beat Western Sydney on Saturday to keep alive their faint hopes of winning the A-League Premier's Plate for a third consecutive season.

Leaders Perth, who host Newcastle on Sunday, enter the round with a six-point buffer.

Sydney are unbeaten in their last five A-League derbies and have lost just one of the last 16 league and FFA Cup games against their cross-town rivals in the last five years.

Defender Michael Zullo is set to miss the derby after picking up a hamstring injury during the second half of the Shanghai match.

The Sky Blues are 4/5 to win the game against Western Sydney, who are 3/1, with the draw 3/1.

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ACL setback for Sky Blues in Japan

Sydney FC are bottom of their Asian Champions League group after going down to a 1-0 defeat away to Kawasaki Frontale.

The J.League hosts didn't score until seven minutes from time but dominated the Sky Blues, having 20 shots to their opponents' two.

Sydney FC's hopes of qualifying from Group H took a big hit against the team that had lost their opening match.

They went into the game at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium without midfielder Josh Brillante, who looks set to leave the club and move to South Korean outfit Pohang Steelers.

Coach Steve Corica left the 25-year-old out of the side as he said he "wasn't in the right frame of mind" to play due to the transfer interest in him.

The Sky Blues had an early chance when skipper Alex Brosque saw his header saved by keeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Leandro Damiao fired wide soon after for Kawasaki, before bringing a fingertip save from Andrew Redmayne midway through the half.

Kawasaki kept the keeper busy after the break and he had to make two superb stops to keep the scores blank.

First a looped volley from Hidemasa Morita from outside the area brought a full-stretch save from Redmayne, then 15 minutes from time he kept out a point-blank effort from Ao Tanaka.

Finally Kawasaki broke the deadlock when Manabu Saito swept home a deflected cross.

It leaves Corica's side bottom with just one point from their opening two fixtures in the tournament.

The coach said: "I thought we defended quite well. Kawasaki had quite a few chances but shots from distance, which our goalkeeper made quite good saves at times.

"We had a very good chance early on in the game, which maybe if we scored this goal the game would have been different … then we are in front and we can defend a lead.

"I'm pleased, our boys worked very hard. Disappointed not to get at least one point, but I thought Kawasaki were good. They're a good team, we knew this, they played good football."

Sydney FC are 5/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Sky Blues are 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 3/1 with the draw 5/2.

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