Sanfrecce spoil Victory's triple send-off as favourites bid farewell
Kevin Muscat's successful six-season stint in charge of Melbourne Victory ended with a 3-1 defeat as Sanfrecce Hiroshima spoiled the farewell party in the AFC Champions League.
The club great, who on Monday announced his impending exit after 14 years as player and coach, was unable to mastermind one last triumph despite Ola Toivonen's sublime second-half free-kick.
The Swede brilliantly cancelled out Taishi Matsumoto's early opener, only for Yusuke Minagawa and Tsukasa Morishima to respond with two goals in almost as many minutes.
Retiring captain Carl Valeri and outgoing marquee Keisuke Honda also made their final appearances and earned warm receptions at AAMI Park.
Sanfrecce, already assured of a place in the knockout rounds, had no interest in the celebrations and took the lead in just the fifth minute, Matsumoto nodding in a flicked-on corner.
Toivonen, freed by Honda, passed up a good opportunity for an equaliser midway through the first half, but the striker made amends in the 70th minute as he lifted a fine free-kick over the wall and inside the left upright.
Minagawa quickly restored the away side's lead with a fine curling finish and goalkeeper Thomas, who made a brilliant reaction save before the break, was again clutching at thin air when wing-back Morishima picked out the top-right corner from 25 yards.
The quickfire strikes denied Muscat's men what would have been their second point of the tournament and confirmed Sanfrecce's status as Group F winners.