A 90th-minute goal from Kosta Barbarouses saw Melbourne Victory to a crucial 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Less than a week after their 2-2 draw in Japan, the teams looked set to share the spoils at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
That was until Barbarouses stepped up with a fine goal to lift Victory onto five points from four games in Group F.
Kawasaki made a strong start as Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas was forced into two saves in the opening 10 minutes.
His second stop was spectacular, diving high to his left to tip a Yoshito Okubo strike from 20 yards onto the crossbar.
Somewhat against the run of play, Victory almost took the lead in the 20th minute.
Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong's poor clearance fell to James Troisi, whose effort from the right was cleared off the line.
The host had another great chance in the 28th minute as Besart Berisha headed a cross from Troisi just wide.
While Victory looked the more likely to open the scoring as the half went on, Kawasaki almost struck seven minutes before the break.
Thomas somehow managed to keep out Okubo's close-range strike after a Tatsuya Hasegawa cross from the left.
Thomas Deng went close with a powerful shot from distance just before half-time as the teams were level at the break.
It was an end-to-end start to the second half as Victory and Kawasaki – both desperate for a win – continued to push for an opening goal.
Terry Antonis almost struck for Victory in the 65th minute, but the midfielder's smart effort after a Jung throw landed on the roof of the net.
Thomas was forced into a strong save diving to his left after a Kentaro Moriya effort from distance took a deflection.
Yu Kobayashi had a goal ruled out for offside before Victory almost went ahead via an own goal after a Christian Theoharous cross from the left.
Victory produced a brilliant finish with a flurry of corners – including James Donachie heading just wide in the 89th minute – and it found its goal.
A beautiful move led to Antonis chesting into the path of Barbarouses, who finished past Jung at his near post for the winner.
Player in focus
What they said – Barbarouses
on the result…
"I think they came out strong, I'd say probably the first 20 minutes and then we grew into the game in the last 25 of that (half) and to be fair, I thought we had control of the second half and the persistence of this team, we're always going to get chances. Last week and tonight, we never give up and it paid off both games."
on recovering from a slow start…
"It's like most games, teams come out firing and they're no different. They're more of a short-passing sort of team. We just had to get under control and calm down a bit, I think we were leaving the midfield a little bit too open at times in the first 20 and when we stopped giving them so much space, they're only human too, they coughed up the ball and we worked harder, I think we stepped up a gear and I felt we were pretty comfortable in the second half."
on the impact of the substitutes…
"It's very tough, as a young boy or if you're playing very sparingly, and it's testament to them to come on and be able to make an impact. It's a tough gig. I always tell young Chrissy (Theoharous) especially, because he's in my position, just to be ready to come on and make sure he's sweating almost to get on the pitch and I think he's done very well the past couple of games."
AFC Champions League 2018 Match Day 4
Melbourne Victory 1 (Kosta Barbarouses 90')
Kawasaki Frontale 0
Melbourne Victory: Thomas (gk), Nigro (Hope 59'), Williams, Donachie, Deng, Broxham (c), Antonis, Troisi, Barbarouses, Berisha (Athiu 70'), George (Theoharous 79')
Kawasaki Frontale: Jung (gk), Morita, Taniguchi, Kurumaya, Eduardo, Okubo, Oshima, Hasegawa (Noborizato 58'), Moriya, Ienaga, Chinen (Kobayashi 60')
Yellow cards: Eduardo 74', Williams 80'
Red cards: Nil
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Victory returns to Hyundai A-League action on Sunday, hosting the Central Coast Mariners. Tickets available here.