Farewell delayed after ACL fairytale

A hoodoo was broken for Melbourne Victory on Tuesday night after they defeated Gamba Osaka 2-1 at AAMI Park. 

The win meant they progressed to the knockout stage for the first time in five appearance in the tournament.

The celebrations were all the more special as it meant the three departing players - Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix), Matthieu Delpierre (retired) and Archie Thompson (unattached) were now going to feature in a definitive final two games for the club in the Round of 16 played over two legs.

Thompson doubled the lead for Victory at the 16th minute, claiming his second goal for the season. His only other was in the A-League in their 3-3 draw against Central Coast Mariners in January.

It was a nail-biter of a finish after Gamba managed to claim a consolation in the dying stages, but Victory managed to weather the storm. Suwon Bluewings defeated Shanghai SIPG 3-0 in a game played simultaneously. 

Victory would have been knocked out had they squandered the lead as Suwon were on equal points, however progressed on head-to-head.

The 37-year-old praised the clubs historic success and had sheer jubilation over getting to fight another day.

“In the context of it, qualifying for the next round, that was the most important thing, surviving another guillotine and creating some more history,” Thompson said.

“It’s massive, it was our fifth campaign and last time we just missed out. Tonight was perfect, they’re a great team no matter who they send. 

“All these Japanese clubs have got great depth in their teams, we knew they were going to battle right to the end and we probably could have sealed it off. But in typical Melbourne Victory fashion we make it a very nervous game to the end.”

With all the emotion surrounding the hypotheticals leading up to the game, Thompson said he managed to contain his feelings and thanked the fans as they chanted his name walking out of the tunnel.

“I kept it together, unfortunately my kids and wife could not be here tonight, but I had my mum, siblings and friends, so that was great. I think they made me less emotional because I think they probably cried enough for me,” he said.

“Broxy (Leigh Broxham) told me I got more farewells than John Farnham, I’m not sure what that meant, but it sounded good.

“The fans were amazing, all night they were screaming, that was very special. I said the other day the chants are one thing I’m going to miss and the supporters with how they take to me, so it was good.”

It is unknown as to who Victory will face in the next game, playing the winner of Group E which provided three possible opponents. Jeonbuk Motors (9), Jiangsu Suning (8) and FC Tokyo (7).  

Jeonbuk lock horns with Jiangsu at home 8pm tonight, simultaneously as Becamex Binh Duong play Tokyo at home.

Ironically, in Victory’s last appearance in the competition, it was Jeonbuk who knocked Victory out of the Group Stage and Thomson did not hold back his sense of humour.

“We don’t know who we’re playing yet, I hope it’s not Jeonbuk Motors because that place to go is pretty desolate, so we’re hoping Tokyo that would be good,” he joked.