Victory fall in Beijing

Melbourne Victory has been defeated 1-0 by Chinese champions Beijing Guoan in the opening fixture of its Asian Champions League campaign at Beijing's Workers' Stadium.

Melbourne Victory has been defeated 1-0 by Chinese champions Beijing Guoan in the opening fixture of its Asian Champions League campaign at Beijing's Workers' Stadium.

Former Newcastle Jets striker Joel Griffiths grabbed the winner five minutes after half time, finishing well from close range. Melbourne tried valiantly for a response, but was unable to rescue a point.

The Victory started slowly with the Chinese outfit using its pace to exploit Melbourne down the flanks. The pacey Xu Liang was a handful down the left while Griffiths and Scottish wing back Maurice Ross were working the right.

After absorbing some early pressure from Guoan, Melbourne sparked into life when Tom Pondeljak almost broke the deadlock on 28 minutes, The nifty midfielder picked up a loose ball and fired a half volley goal bound and if not for the fingertips of the Beijing and Chinese national keeper Yang Zhi, the Victory may have found itself a goal to the good.

This seemed to shift the Chinese side up a gear as they stepped up the pressure. Ten minutes before half time Beijing almost took the lead from a corner with the Victory defending desperately.

The in-swinging delivery was met by the head of Griffiths but cleared off the line by Surat Sukha. Otto picked up the loose ball for Beijing and smashed a shot toward the bottom corner. Pondlejak was on hand to save the goal for Melbourne and Ross' follow up shot was blocked by Kevin Muscat and eventually cleared.

Griffiths was again involved just before the break when his cut back found Otto. Mitch Langerak was equal to the task saving the shot and keeping the scores level.

Nik Mrdja was unlucky not to give Melbourne the lead a minute later after he broke the offside trap running onto a clever ball from Nicky Ward. Mrdja was unable to get a clear shot on goal and that proved to be the best chance of the half for Melbourne.

It was eventually Griffiths who broke the hearts of Melbourne supporters. The former Newcastle striker took the ball between Kevin Muscat and Vargas with one touch and cooly slotted it through the legs of Langerak.

Langerak did keep Melbourne in the match with some fine shot stopping. The young keeper dived to his left to keep out a dangerous free kick from Xu Liang and when Griffiths latched onto a chip forward Langerak rushed out and cleared the danger.

Mrdja nearly pulled the Victory level when Ward whipped a cross in and the burly striker couldn't angle his header on target. He was in the thick of things again right at the death but Melbourne was unable to convert a three-on-one counter attack. Pondeljak and Ward combined well and found space on the right however the cut back seemed to elude the big number nine.

The loss puts Melbourne on the back foot in the campaign but it has the chance to bounce back when it faces Seognam Ilhwa on March 9 at Etihad Stadium, two days after the second leg of its major semi-final against Sydney at the SFS.

Beijing Guoan 1 (Griffiths 52) Melbourne Victory 0