Controversial penalty sees Victory home in ACL opener

Melbourne Victory have got their Asian Champions League campaign off to a perfect start in a 2-1 win over group G opponents Shanghai SIPG.

The match was headlined by a controversial decisive penalty scored by Besart Berisha after a goal from Jai Ingham was equalled out by a Wu Lei header.

Jai Ingham was a surprise starter as coach Kevin Muscat looked to employ the former Hume City winger on the left hand side in place of the missing Fahid Ben Khalfallah.

However, the action would kick off on the right wing as just four minutes in the home side had their first chance, with Kosta Barbarouses making a penetrating run only to fire off a tame shot.

Shanghai SIPG would then enjoy their own purple patch, with Yu Hai heading narrowly at the goal to be cleared by the well placed Danny Vukovic on the line from a corner.

Just a minute later, Dario Conca earned the ire of the Victory fans when his flick over Jai Ingham’s head caused the latter to bring him down softly, only for the referee to yellow card Ingham for his indiscretion.

Ju-Young Kim was another who earns the ire of the home support after bringing down Berisha, and like the Chinese players, looked bereft of pre-season polish.

On the half hour mark, the visitors had a shout for a penalty as Matthew Delpierre brought down Wu Lei in the box however their claims were waved away.

Moments after however, a great break by the Victory saw Bozanic unleash a curling through ball to Ingham and the ACL debutant showed experience beyond his years to cut inside and hit it low and hard to the left of Yan Junling for the opener.

The Victory would then continue to employ a slick passing play, this time with stalwart Archie Thompson and marquee Besart Berisha combining well, however Thompson’s tame attempt went straight to Junling.

Shanghai continued to look to exploit the left wing, with an out of sorts Geria being targeted by the pacy Elkeson. 

The Victory almost had a moment of calamity before half-time, with Vukovic storming out of his box to clear the ball, only for a shot on goal to be cleared off the line by the backtracking Georgievski to spare the home side’s blushes.

Shortly after the break, Berisha began a mazy run into the box but Shanghai were more than up to the task and began a counter-attack however again their poor touch plagued them, this time Asamoah Gyan the culprit.

Barbarouses had a chance to double the Victory’s lead however the Kiwi international botched his shot on goal after Geria had done well to win the ball on the right.

Shanghai would make them pay however, as on 52 minutes Elkeston broke on the left and his pinpoint ball to the far post was tapped in past Vukovic to equalise. 

Their fans would despair soon after with big money signing Asamoah Gyan being forced off the pitch and not taking any further part in the match.

Shanghai nearly took the lead shortly after the hour mark when Wu Lei was again left alone by Daniel Georgievski only for the Chinese striker to sky the ball.

Bizarrely, Victory were spared the blushes of conceding after a second ball was brought into play, however the resulting goal was scratched after play was brought back.

This continued a brief period of dominance by the visitors as they peppered the Victory goal with crosses however Vukovic was more than up to the task.

On 70 minutes, controversy struck as Barbarouses was brought down on the edge of the box.

While the Chinese club remonstrated at a penalty being awarded, Berisha was having none of it, and held onto the ball as Junling refused to take his place on the line.

Berisha kept his composure following the antics of the Chinese keeper to calmly slot the ball home and give the home side the lead.

He was put through again shortly after by Geria but flashed his shot wide of Junling, as Victory pressed to put the game away.

Wu Lei had a chance to equalise with just over five minutes on the clock but his shot was cleared comfortably by Vukovic and again the Victory counter attacking machine pressed on the break with Berisha flashing his shot over the bar. 

Dario Conca gave the home side a late scare with a wickedly swerving shot cannoning off the upright after beating Vukovic at full stretch.