Toivonen strikes as Victory get off to winning start in ACL group stage

Melbourne Victory have made the perfect start to their 2020 AFC Champions League group stage campaign with a 1-0 win over Thai side Chiangrai United on Tuesday night.

Ola Toivonen’s perfectly-placed penalty midway through the half was enough for Carlos Salvachua’s men in an entertaining clash at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

After coming through two play-off matches to confirm their spot in this year’s ACL group stage, Victory showed they belong in the competition with a professional display.

They had the better of the chances over the 90 minutes, with Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas not requiring to make a save of any great difficulty.

Chiangrai’s disappointing night was compounded late on when Thirayu Banhan was shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Jay Barnett.

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After a cagey opening 20 minutes, Victory then took some control with Toivonen forcing a spectacular save out of Chiangrai keeper Apirak Woravong.

The skipper’s next contribution a few minutes later was more telling.

As Victory attacked down the left, Andrew Nabbout sent in a cross and defender Tanasak Srisai bundled Toivonen to the ground.

The referee had no hesitation awarding Victory a penalty which Toivonen converted accurately into the bottom corner.

Elvis Kamsoba was the home side’s liveliest player in the first half and it was one of his numerous driving runs that resulted in a chance for Nabbout just after the half-four mark, but his shot was off target.

Nabbout went even closer 13 minutes after the break as his close-range header – from Migjen Basha’s corner – rattled back off the crossbar.

Victory began to sit a little deeper as the half wore on, content to protect their one-goal lead, but Kamsoba should have increased the buffer 10 minutes from time.

Some great play from substitute Marco Rojas presented the Burundi international with a golden opportunity but he somehow scooped his shot over the bar.

Victory defender James Donachie wins a header in his side's 1-0 win
Victory defender James Donachie wins a header in his side's 1-0 win

The glaring miss didn’t matter in the end as Victory held on to register a priceless three points.

Victory aren’t in action in the Hyundai A-League this weekend due to a bye, meaning their next match will come in a week’s time in the ACL.

The Navy Blues travel to Korea to take on FC Seoul, with kick-off at the Seoul World Cup Stadium at 9.30pm AEDT.

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