Melbourne City FC was held to a scoreless draw in its 2023 AFC Champions League opener against Japanese opposition, Ventforet Kofu.
Playing in an ACL match on home soil for the first time, chances were hard to come by for both teams and neither were able to find a way through the respective defences over the 90 minutes.
Minus the injury absences of Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout, Head Coach Rado Vidosic had a strong squad at his disposal for the midweek clash.
Three changes were made from the XI that took to the pitch for last week’s Australia Cup win, with captain Jamie Maclaren, Callum Talbot and Nuno Reis all returning.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 4. Nuno REIS, 22. Curtis GOOD, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS, 43. Sebastian ESPOSITO, 50. Medin MEMETI, 53. Harry SHILLINGTON.
It was an even start to the match as both sides seemed happy to feel each other out and build into the contest in the early stages.
An unfortunate moment from a seventh-minute Kofu corner almost saw a Curtis Good deflection end in disaster, but thankfully for City fans, the glancing header hit the upright.
It certainly wasn’t a case of luck in the 15th minute when Jamie Young came up with a big one-on-one stop to deny a golden chance for the visitors.
City would dominate possession for large parts of the first half thanks to the likes of Hamza Sakhi and Steven Ugarkovic, but there were still plenty of dangerous questions being asked by the Kofu counterattacks.
Clear-cut chances were hard to come by for City with a large number of defenders behind the ball. It was once again Young who was called into action in the 58th minute and pulled out another crucial save.
Sakhi’s set-piece delivery proved to be one of City’s biggest threats, with a number of corners in the final half-hour of the contest putting pressure on the Kofu defenders.
It was almost a moment of magic that finally saw the deadlock broken in the 80th minute, a Tolgay Arslan ball from the right-hand side finding Maclaren in the box who had no choice but to attempt an acrobatic finish, and just couldn’t find the required connection to get his effort on target.
Both sides continued to search for a winner in the dying stages but neither could create a clear cut chance and the clash ultimately ended scoreless.
City fans won’t have to wait long to see the team return to action, with an Australia Cup Semi Final at the same venue coming up this Sunday. Tickets will go on sale on Thursday afternoon.
As for the next AFC Champions League fixture, City will be in China to take on Zheijang on Wednesday 4 October.