Melbourne Victory have started their Asian Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over Chiangrai United at AAMI Park.
Victory snatched the lead via an Ola Toivonen penalty in the 25th minute but largely delivered an uninspiring performanceagainst the Thai outfit in front of 4156 fans.
Carlos Salvachua handed recruit Giancarlo Gallifuoco his first start, though Marco Rojas started on the bench.
Victory looked lethargic and sloppy at times in the first half, with Chiangrai’s pressure creating several good opportunities – though none seriously challenged goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.
Victory almost snatched the lead when Toivonen forced a superb diving save from Chiangrai keeper Apirak Worawong in the 22nd minute.
A minute later, Swede Toivonen was brought down by defender Tanasak Srisai, with referee Turki Mohammed Alkhudhayr immediatelypointing to the spot.
Worawong dived the right way but couldn’t stop Toivonen’s powerful spot-kick into the bottom corner.
Socceroo Andrew Nabbout missed a chance to make it 2-0 in the 31st minute. Elvis Kamsoba went on a terrific run down the right, then cut the ball back for Nabbout, who blasted his shot high and wide.
Nabbout spurned a golden opportunity in the 58th minute when he clattered a header from the top of the six-yard box into the crossbar.
Defender Storm Roux was taken off on a stretcher in the 61st minute, while a visibly frustrated Nabbout made way for Rojas 14 minutes later with the Victory still wasteful in front of goal.
Rojas created the best chance of the second half when he weaved past two defenders and slipped a clever ball beyond a third to Kamsoba – only for the winger to blaze it over the bar.
Chiangrai’s Thirayu Banhan received a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Victory’s Jay Barnett in the 89th minute.
Rojas and Toivonen combined late but the latter saw his last-ditch attempt saved, leaving the hosts to settle for a frustrating 1-0 win.