Melbourne Victory has lost the opening match of it's Chinese tour 2-1 and in the process lost two key players to injury.
A stunning Leigh Broxham free kick was the highlight as Melbourne Victory was defeated 2-1 by Chinese Super League (CSL) side Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in an international friendly at YueXiuShan Stadium on Friday evening.
However Broxham’s cracking shot into the top left corner of the net was somewhat overshadowed by injuries to Brazilian striker Ney Fabiano and rugged defender Steven Pace, who was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder.
Guangzhou midfielders Li Yan and Lu Lin scored on either side of half time respectively to seal the result, as Melbourne Victory Coach Ernie Merrick experimented with a mix of experience and youth in the first of the club’s two matches in China.
“We had a mixture of players in the first half and the second half to give everyone a run,” Merrick said.
“To Guangzhou’s credit, they knocked the ball around well, they’re pretty quick and they deserved to win.
“Our boys are pretty exhausted because it’s quite hot and humid here, but I wasn’t unhappy with the quality of the football.
“I was very impressed again with Kevin Muscat, Matthew Kemp and Evan Berger, but Danny (Allsopp) and Archie (Thompson) just didn’t get enough service in the second half.”
Allsopp was introduced to the contest earlier than expected when Ney Fabiano rolled his ankle on 11 minutes and created several chances as Melbourne Victory went in search of an early goal.
Yet it was Guangzhou that struck first through Li Yan, who found space in the penalty area and cleanly volleyed a cross from the right flank 12 minutes before half time.
Despite trailing, Victory controlled much of the possession and passing throughout the midfield.
Merrick made a host of changes at the break, with Broxham, Archie Thompson, Nick Ward, Rodrigo Vargas and Melbourne Victory Youth midfielder Matthew Foschini all introduced for the second half.
Young goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak made a number of telling saves throughout the evening but couldn’t stop Lu Lin’s precise free kick on 67 minutes, which doubled the home side’s lead.
Pace and Melbourne Victory Youth forward Tedros Yabio were both brought on before Broxham struck from 25 metres out with a shot that Guangzou goalkeeper Li Shuai had little chance of saving in the dying stages.
“We fly tomorrow to Beijing and then we hop on a bus to Tianjin,” Merrick added.
“It’s going to be tough on the boys, but it’s all part of pre-season training and getting used to the travelling.
“We’ll be starting a very strong team against Tianjin for the Lord Mayor’s Cup.”
Both Pace and Ney Fabiano are expected to miss Melbourne Victory’s match against CSL outfit Tianjin Teda at TEDA Football Stadium on Sunday.