Keisuke Honda's Melbourne Victory debut delivers welcome boost for A-League
Japanese international Keisuke Honda has landed in the A-League with a serious splash, both on and off the field.
The Melbourne Victory marquee, lured to Australia with the powerhouse club's biggest-ever salary, netted the opener in the derby on Saturday night.
But his influence on the contest began well before kick-off.
Victory's membership levels have ballooned off the back of his signing -- already sitting above 24,000 -- which will see the club break its all-time record this season.
Both the Victory army and Honda's own Japanese-based fans swamped Marvel Stadium for an attendance of 40,504.
That's an increase of 13 percent on last year's fixture involving Socceroos star Tim Cahill.
A-League chief Greg O'Rourke, who helped finance the move with money from FFA's guest player fund, said their investment was bearing fruit.
"What an excellent crowd and a great way to kick off in Melbourne," O'Rourke said.
"We'd been hearing rumblings of just how many people were keen to see Honda in action through the week.
"And we had Japanese media coming out of our ears. It was a great night."
The roar when Honda's name was read out in the pre-match rundown showed Honda's star power, and stood as the biggest noise of the match until he nodded home in the 28th minute.
Victory would lose the match 2-1 after Ritchie de Laet, City's own marquee, and Riley McGree scored, but Honda was praised by all.
"I thought he was clearly very influential on the game," Victory coach Kevin Muscat said.
"His desire to compete with his technical ability is outstanding."
City midfielder Kearyn Baccus, who spent much of the night marking the 32-year-old, said it was a privilege to share a pitch with the seasoned international.
"He's unbelievable. He could play maybe until he's 40, 45. He's very sharp. He's a very good player," he said.
Terry Antonis played alongside Honda and James Troisi in a revamped Victory midfield, saying they'd bounce back from the defeat.
"It was a good goal he scored," he said. "We've got a different formation, it worked well tonight and we'll keep going.
"We have a good fanbase and Keisuke brings a crowd as well ... he rubs off on the players too. People are being more professional."
"Everyone will bond really well together."