Victory's hopes washed away in Osaka

Melbourne Victory’s hopes of advancing to the Knockout Stage of the AFC Champions League 2008 were washed away after Masato Yamazaki and Yasuhito Endo led Japan’s Gamba Osaka to a 2-0 win in wet conditions at Expo ’70 Stadium this evening.

Melbourne Victory-s hopes of advancing to the Knockout Stage of the AFC Champions League 2008 were washed away after Masato Yamazaki and Yasuhito Endo led Japan-s Gamba Osaka to a 2-0 win in wet conditions at Expo -70 Stadium this evening.

Rain fell freely as Endo successfully combined with Yamazaki on either side of half time in the Match Day 4 clash, extending Gamba-s lead on top of Group G and effectively ending Victory-s maiden appearance in Asia-s premier club competition.

Yamazaki opened Gamba-s account on 31 minutes as he received a delicate flick from Endo and doubled the home side-s lead on 56 minutes as he managed to convert an Endo free kick from the back post.

Victory had a number of chances to silence the vocal home crowd but failed to get anything past Gamba goalkeeper Naoki Matsuyo, who overcame an injury concern to record his side-s first clean sheet of the AFC Champions League 2008.

Victory Coach Ernie Merrick said Victory couldn-t match the quality of Gamba-s finishing and depth, predicting that the Japanese side will be one of the main contenders for the AFC Champions League 2008 title.

"The first goal that Gamba scored was well worked and it was one of the few chances they had," Merrick said.

"There weren-t a lot of chances for either team, but they took that chance.

"The second goal was just scrappy.

"Nick Ward went up for a header, he was nudged off the ball by Lucas and ball glanced of his head, hit the shin of Yamazaki and rolled in the inside of the post.

"We had our chances as well.

"Danny Allsopp hit the crossbar and their goalkeeper made a good save towards the end to stop a terrific through pass from Kevin Muscat and save the day for Gamba.

"Overall, Gamba deserved to win.

"They-re a very good team and they-re the sort of team that can probably go all the way and win the AFC Champions League.

"We-ve matched every team we-ve played; we just haven-t finished the way we should have."

Merrick praised several youngsters in Victory-s side, including Leigh Broxham, who was a notable performer despite playing with a slight ankle injury, but said it was tough trying to find a partner Danny Allsopp up front.

"We just struggled to get 11 high quality players up for the game and we weren-t getting enough high quality goal scoring opportunities," Merrick added.

Victory has two AFC Champions League 2008 matches remaining against Korea Republic-s Chunnam Dragons and Thailand-s Chonburi FC, with Merrick declaring that the club plans to field its strongest side.

"We-re all extremely disappointed about tonight-s result because that puts us out of the AFC Champions League, but in our next two matches we intend to put our best side out and try and win and finish in second spot if we can, since we can-t finish in first."

Victory will travel to Gwangyang Football Stadium in Korea to face Chunnam on Wednesday, 7 May, before returning to Telstra Dome for its final Group Stage fixture against Chonburi on Wednesday, 21 May.

Tickets for the match against Chonburi, as well as Victory-s blockbuster friendly against Italian giant Juventus FC on Friday, 30 May, are available from any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 136 100 or through

Melbourne Victory 0
Gamba Osaka 2 (Masato Yamazaki 31-/56-)
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Expo -70 Stadium, Osaka
Referee: Ali Al Badwawi
Crowd: 8132

Gamba Osaka: 1.MATSUYO Naoki (gk), 2.Sota NAKAZAWA, 5.YAMAGUCHI Satoshi (Captain), 7.Yasuhito ENDO, 9.Lucas SEVERINO, 10.Takahiro FUTAGAWA, 13.Michihiro YASUDA (4.MIZUMOTO Hiroki 88-), 17.Tomokazu MYOJIN, 18.Jader Volnei SPINDLER (20.Shu KURATA 82-), 27.Hideo HASHIMOTO, 30.Masato YAMAZAKI

Substitutes not used: 3.Huenes Marcelo LEMOS, 6.FUKUMOTO Yohei, 8.Shinichi TERADA, 16.Hayato SASAKI, 29.Atsushi KIMURA (gk)
Yellow cards: Satoshi Yamaguchi 89'

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 7.Matthew KEMP, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Kaz PATAFTA (25.Tom PONDELJAK 46-), 14.Adrian CACERES, 18.Leigh BROXHAM (6.Steve PANTELIDIS 69-), 21.Sebastian RYALL, 22.Nick WARD, 24.Billy CELESKI (15.Leandro LOVE 75-)

Substitutes not used: 4.Steven PACE, 11.Nathan ELASI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk)
Yellow cards: Leigh Broxham 55-