Melbourne City has been held to a scoreless draw by J2 League side Ventforet Kofu in their opening Asian Champions League group-stage fixture.
Still a month out from the start of the 2023-24 A-League Men season, Rado Vidosic’s side struggled to create goalscoring chances at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Wednesday.
Their cause wasn’t helped by the absence of attackers Andrew Nabbout and Mat Leckie through injury.
Conversely, 35 games into their domestic campaign, Ventforet demonstrated purpose and intent whenever it had the ball, showing the drive of a team in the middle of its season.
The Japanese side is the only second-tier side in this year’s ACL, qualifying after winning the Emperor’s Cup [Japan’s equivalent of the FA Cup] in 2022.
It quickly began asking questions of City, with Kohei Matsumoto and Yoshiki Torikai having repeated efforts on goal early on.
City keeper Jamie Young was increasingly called into action as the half progressed and he denied Masahiro Sekiguchi in the 28th minute and Matsumoto in the 33rd minute.
Torikai subsequently won a free kick in the 37th minute and Young stood rooted to the spot as Kazuhiro Sato banged a dipping effort onto the crossbar with the resulting attempt.
By the time the half ended the hosts found more possession, but half of their shots did not challenge Michael Woud in the Venforet goal.
Ventforet continued to push in the second half and Torikai forced Young into a fine save to maintain parity just before the hour mark.
City gradually began to move the ball into its attacking third as the match progressed but couldn’t create clear-cut chances resulting in the match ending goalless.
“At times we were a bit sloppy and slow,” captain Jamie Maclaren told AAP.
” I have to be mindful that it’s a new group … to play this style, it does take time.
“Being at home we want to be on the front foot and tonight at times we were outplayed.
“We’ll work on the training pitch to rectify things.”
Ventforet coach Yoshiyuki Shinoda said his side was disappointed to leave Melbourne with just a point.
“It was a good performance for us to show in our first match in the ACL,” Shinoda said through a translator.
“We played convincingly. I feel that we should have won.
“To take one point home is considered positive, but our intention from the start was to get three points.”
Both teams are back in action on Sunday as City takes on Sydney FC in the Australia Cup and Ventforet returns home to take on Shimizu S-Pulse in J2.
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