Griffiths denies Melbourne

Joel Griffiths has gate-crashed Melbourne's opening Asian Champions League match of the season with the former Newcastle striker scoring the only goal as Beijing Guoan defeated the Hyundai A-League champions in China.

Joel Griffiths has gate-crashed Melbourne's opening Asian Champions League match of the season with the former Newcastle striker scoring the only goal as Beijing Guoan defeated the Hyundai A-League champions in China.

Melbourne rarely threatened the home side's goal on a freezing night in Beijing and the Chinese powerhouse took its chance to get its campaign off to a flyer with Griffiths scoring in the 52nd minute.

The Australian striker was the dominant attacking player on the field showing all the quality which earned him the Johnny Warren Medal as the Hyundai A-League's best player in 2008.

While it was Beijing embarking on its first competitive fixture of the year, it was Melbourne which looked flat with the local keeper only having one serious save to make.

It was a subdued first 20 minutes from both teams, with the most notable moment coming when the referee had to briefly leave the field after being blinded by a laser from the crowd.

Beijing's first serious shot was cleared by Surat Sukha, while up the other end Kevin Muscat misfired when given a chance from a corner before a busy Tom Pondeljak shot from 30 yards and had Yang Zhi punching clear.

Melbourne looked to be getting the upper hand when Carlos Hernandez fired just wide, but all of a sudden, the home side found its rhythm and laid siege to Melbourne's goal for a good five-minute period.

Mitch Langerak was busy, initially having to save a long shot before an extraordinary double clearance off the line from Melbourne defenders.

Griffiths' header was goal bound before Sukha produced a header of his own to steer the ball off target while the follow-up shot from Otto needed some quick reflexes from Pondeljak.

Maurice Ross's effort was then snuffed out by Muscat.

Zhu Yi Fan should have given Beijing the lead when Leigh Broxham's block on Otto fell at his feet, but he steered his shot only millimetres wide.

On 40 minutes Griffiths set up Otto beautifully, only for Langerak to produce an acrobatic save to preserve the 0-0 scoreline.

In the shadows of half-time, Melbourne fought back and Nik Mrdja was denied by a block from Ross before Hernandez fired wide and wild over the bar.

Beijing re-took the initiative early in the second half and after Otto hit the side netting and the home side unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty, the Melbourne defence was finally breached on 52 minutes.

A superb build-up involving Ross, Darko Matic and Fan ended with a cross to the feet of Griffiths.

The Australian's first touch gave him space and he finished with the aid of a deflection between Langerak's legs.

A minute later, Langerak was a little more assured as Liang Xu launched a long free kick and the Melbourne keeper fisted clear.

Evan Berger's role in the game lasted less than 15 minutes.

Coming on to replace Sukha at half-time, the injury-plagued wing back departed for Matthew Foschini on the hour.

Langerak denied an advancing Griffiths on 64 minutes and that proved a launching point for a Melbourne revival as the visitors began to dominate, with Pondeljak going close from an angle.

Hernandez was struggling with his radar, shooting wide on 80 minutes, while the addition of Marvin Angulo late in the game saw Melbourne attack with purpose.

But Mrdja headed wide and then scuffed another shot and Beijing held firm to record the win.

Beijing Guoan 1 (Griffiths 52) Melbourne Victory 0