Victory draw with Gamba Osaka

Melbourne Victory and Gamba Osaka have shared a 1-1 draw in their Group E AFC Champions League match at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne, a result which leaves qualification for both teams in the balance.

Melbourne Victory and Gamba Osaka have shared a 1-1 draw in their Group E AFC Champions League match at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne, a result which leaves qualification for both teams in the balance.

Melbourne scored first through Adrian Leijer on 12 minutes but Sota Nakazawa, with his second goal of the campaign, levelled things just before half time. Tellingly, both goals came from defenders as the result of corners in a match where both sides' attackers wasted plenty of chances.

A win from either side would have significantly strengthened their chances of progressing from the group, with Melbourne going closest to claiming the three points.

It was a much improved performance from the home side, who were thrashed 5-1 when the teams met in the opening match of the tournament in early March. The result means they move to five points and need a win when they meet Jeju United in Korea next Wednesday, along with a loss for Gamba Osaka.

Gamba Osaka are better placed on seven points, but need a win in their final match at home to Tianjin Teda to ensure their progress to the round of 16.

Melbourne began the match playing much of the attacking football and Carlos Hernandez provided the first threat, flashing a free kick past the goal in the third minute.

The Costa Rican continued to provide much of Melbourne's impetus and he was involved heavily in the build-up to the first goal. His 12th-minute free kick was turned away by keeper Yosuke Fujigaya setting up a corner which he took with aplomb. His pin-point cross picked out Leijer, who rose well to head home and give the home side a deserved lead.

Soon after, Melbourne had a decent penalty shout turned down when Akira Kaji looked to have handled the ball under pressure from Isaka Cernak.

Shocked by the early barrage for the home side, Gamba Osaka were stung into action and only Leigh Broxham's goal-line clearance prevented Takashi Usami from equalising with a cracking shot on 18 minutes.

From that point on the victors dominated for the rest of the half, controlling possession, creating plenty of corners but not conjuring quality chances.

Eventually the opportunity came on 43 minutes, when with their seventh corner, the ball was not cleared by the Victory defence. Satoshi's Yamaguchi's shot hit the woodwork, but Nazakawa was quickest to react and turned the rebound into the net.

Melbourne regrouped early in the second half and inside the first 15 minutes had four good chances to re-establish their lead. Skipper Kevin Muscat headed over, Danny Allsopp failed to connect to Cernak's cross, Hernandez shot straight at Fujigaya before Archie Thompson's shot was blocked by Nazakawa's lunge.

Yasuhito Endo tested Tando Velaphi's reflexes as Osaka looked to build their credentials for the three points, but that was a rare foray forward for the visitors.

Melbourne pushed hard for the winner, in Cernak's case too hard as he was booked for simulation in the box. It was one of many incisions into the attacking zone Melbourne made late in the match, but the only one to force a save was a scything shot from Hernandez which was brilliantly knocked away by Fujigaya.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Leijer 12) Gamba Osaka 1 (Nazakawa 43) Crowd: 7,437 at Docklands Stadium