Victory readies itself for Osaka voyage

Melbourne Victory’s preparations for its crucial AFC Champions League 2008 clash against Japan’s Gamba Osaka continued with a 0-0 draw against Adelaide United at Olympic Park Stadium this afternoon.

Melbourne Victory-s preparations for its crucial AFC Champions League 2008 clash against Japan-s Gamba Osaka continued with a 0-0 draw against Adelaide United at Olympic Park Stadium this afternoon.

Neither team could break the deadlock in a fiercely contested trial match, which was the fourth and final between the two sides ahead of their respective AFC Champions League fixtures on Wednesday, 23 April.

Aside from its injured trio of Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez and Grant Brebner, Victory fielded its entire playing list throughout the match, including new recruit Tom Pondeljak, who made his first appearance for the club after overcoming a knee injury.

Youngsters Kaz Patafta, Evan Berger and Nathan Elasi were standouts for the home side, while Michael Theoklitos in the first half and Mitchell Langerak in the second half stood tall in goal for Victory.

Victory defender Steve Pantelidis was sent off late in the match for a challenge on Matthew Mullen, who had Adelaide-s best chance of scoring soon after with a close range shot that hit the crossbar in injury time.

Victory Coach Ernie Merrick said the trial match was a good opportunity for the players that haven-t been playing regularly to impress ahead of the club-s final three AFC Champions League 2008 Group Stage matches.

“We tried to setup the way we-ll play against Gamba next week, but we couldn-t, we had to change it to play against Adelaide and then we played so much better in the second half because of that,” Merrick said.

“Three boys that stood out there for me were Evan Berger, Nathan Elasi and Kaz Patafta.

“As youngsters they-re getting more game time and they-re getting more confident.”

Merrick said the side was motivated for its rematch against Gamba, although he wasn-t so sure that the Japanese side, which currently sits four points ahead of Victory on top of the Group G ladder, would drop points in its other two fixtures.

“The boys are pretty keen to do well in Japan, so we-ll just go over there and have a real go at Osaka,” Merrick said.

“I-m confident that we can play well in our next three games, but if we beat Gamba next week, they still have to lose points to another team and I-m not so confident about that.

“But that won-t stop us from giving it our best shot.”

Victory will depart for Osaka this Monday ahead of its clash against Gamba at Expo -70 Stadium, which will be broadcast exclusively on Fox Sports 3 from 10pm on Wednesday, 23 April.

Following consecutive away fixtures against Gamba and Korea Republic-s Chunnam Dragons, Victory will return to Telstra Dome for its final AFC Champions League 2008 Group Stage match against Thailand-s Chonburi FC at Telstra Dome on Wednesday, 21 May.

Tickets for the match against Chonburi are available from any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 136 100 or through ticketmaster.com.au.

Melbourne Victory 0 Adelaide United 0 Tuesday, 15 April 2008 Olympic Park Stadium, Melbourne