Griffiths goal the difference as Beijing Guoan beat Melbourne Victory
Chinese champions Beijing Guoan have opened their Asian Champions League account with a win over the A-League's Melbourne Victory. A second half strike from former A-League goalscorer Joel Griffiths was the difference as Beijing outplayed their rivals and kicked off their campaign in a strong fashion.
The conditions were cold and the pitch was barren and bumpy but the players were here and ready for the first match in Group E.
The contest started in a cagey manner with both sides trying to work each other out in the opening 15 minutes but Beijing seemed to settle first and were trying to push wide down the wings with Xu Liang providing a bit of a headache for Victory coach Ernie Merrick on the left flank.
Beijing coach Hong Yuanshuo had obviously done his homework on Victory's Johnny Warren Medalist Carlos Hernandez as every time the Costa Rican received the ball, he was pressured and pressed by two and three Guoan players.
However, the visitors had the best chance of the first half-hour when Tom Pondeljak picked up a loose ball in midfield and unleashed a swerving 30-yard shot but China's national team goalkeeper Yang Zhi was able to produce a very good save.
In the 34th minute, somehow the Victory managed to keep Beijing out when former Newcastle Jets striker Joel Griffiths headed goalward from a corner but Surat Sukha was well-placed on the line to clear it away before the rebound fell to Brazilian import Erivaldo but his shot was blocked by Pondeljak on the other post.
And four minutes later, Beijing were unlucky again when the ball fell to Zhu Yifan but with an open goal, he skewed his shot wide, keeping Melbourne in the contest despite being outplayed for a ten minute period towards the end of the first half.
Griffiths was proving difficult to handle for Melbourne and he made a piercing run to the touchline with four minutes remaining in the half before cutting it back for Erivaldo but his shot was kept out by Mitch Langerak who was kept busy in the opening 45 minutes.
Just over five minutes into the second half, the home side got the reward when Griffiths finished some good lead up work with a brilliant first touch before sliding it through Langerak's legs to open the scoring.
Beijing's pressure was forcing Melbourne to give the ball up easily and there were plenty of holes on the pitch as the home side continued to push forward with runners moving into the space.
Despite plenty of forward forays by Beijing, the Victory defence led by Langerak, managed to hold out the Chinese Super League champions whilst up the other end, they could not force any real chances of their own until the final five minutes where Pondeljak opened up the area for Nik Mrdja but he could not finish from close range.
The score remained 1-0 until the final whistle giving Beijing a great start to their ACL campaign as the Victory will be hoping to turn their performance around in their next match against South Korean club Seongnam Ilhwa on March 9.
Beijing Guoan 3. Wu Hao, 4. Zhou Ting, 5. Darko Matic, 6. Xu Liang (Wang Changqing 90'), 10. Erivaldo, 11. Yan Xiangchuang, 13. Xu Yunlong, 22. Yang Zhi (gk), 28. Zhu Yifan (Huang Bowen 62'), 29. Joel Griffiths (Wang Xiaolong 86'), 33. Maurice Ross
Subs used: 16. Huang Bowen 62', 19. Wang Xiaolong 86', 7. Wang Changqing 90'
Melbourne Victory 1. Mitchell Langerak (gk), 2. Kevin Muscat, 5. Surat Sukha (Evan Berger 46'/Matthew Foschini 60'), 6. Leigh Broxham (Marvin Angulo 85'), 8. Grant Brebner, 9. Nik Mrdja, 12. Rodrigo Vargas, 15. Tom Pondeljak, 16. Carlos Hernandez, 22. Nick Ward, 23. Adrian Leijer
Subs used: 19. Evan Berger 46', 17. Matthew Foschini 60', 11. Marvin Angulo 85'