Football 2 years ago

Muscat rues tight ACL exit

  • Muscat rues tight ACL exit

    GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 06: Kevin Muscat coach of Melbourne Victory during the round 22 A-League match between the Central Coast Mariners and the Melbourne Victory at Central Coast Stadium on March 6, 2016 in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Melbourne Victory's post-Archie Thompson era will now begin, but unfortunately for the A-League club, continental football won't be a part of it.

Victory were bundled out of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night, beaten 2-1 in the second leg and 3-2 on aggregate by Korean heavyweights Jeonbuk Motors.

The former Asian champions and two-time reigning K-League winners proved too much for Victory, with Brazilian ace Leonardo scoring all three of their goals.

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Victory coach Kevin Muscat will lead his side back to Melbourne on Wednesday and when he lands he'll confront the biggest changes at the club since he became manager three years ago.

Thompson's duties at the club have been completed, some 11 years after he scored the club's first ever goal.

Fellow championship-winners Kosta Barbarouses and Matthieu Delpierre will depart too.

The Kiwi joins A-League rivals Wellington Phoenix and Delpierre will enjoy his retirement in Germany.

There will be other departures as Muscat embarks on a squad transformation, without the lure of a deep run into the Asia to attract talent.

Perhaps that's why the former Socceroo confessed his frustration to be leaving the tournament at the round of 16.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," he said.

"We worked tirelessly, played some good football, created a number of chances.

"We had to take some some risks but fortune didn't fall our way."

While Victory exited at the hands of the same opponent as their last campaign in 2014, there are signs of progression.

This year, the A-League giants qualified from their group for the first time in five entries.

So while Victory are out of Asia for at least the next 20 months - requiring a top-three A-League finish next season to re-enter - Muscat could see some positives from their run.

"We've gained enormous experience," he said.

"Now we're able to compete in Asia against teams such as Jeonbuk which have a rich history.

"Tonight we paid the price for not winning in Melbourne.

"It just goes to show we've closed the gap. We competed evenly if not shaded (Jeonbuk overall). We were the better team creating better chances over the two games."

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