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Apr 14, 2010

Victory bow out of ACL after meek draw

Melbourne Victory exited Asian Champions League contention with barely a whimper as Chinese club Beijing Guoan held them to a 0-0 draw at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

The result ended the Victory's faint hopes of qualifying for the second stage, leaving Adelaide United as Australia's only survivor in the round of 16.

Undermanned Melbourne were outclassed throughout by the Chinese side, who had several chances to win the match and sew up a round of 16 berth but failed to take any.

Beijing's Australian striker Joel Griffiths, who caused plenty of trouble for the Victory defence all night, had perhaps his side's best opportunity.

But he put a second half header just wide, as well as creating another gilt-edged first half opportunity for midfielder Huang Bowen which was put wide.

Melbourne's best period of the match came in the last 20 minutes.

Striker Nik Mrdja went closest to breaking the deadlock with his 74th minute shot from a rebound eventually saved by Beijing keeper Yang Zhi.

The Victory now sit bottom of Group E, with second-placed Beijing Guoan and Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale set to fight it out for second place in the group.

Kawasaki Frontale thumped Group E leaders Seongnam Ilhwa 3-0 in Japan in Wednesday night's other match to move to a point behind Beijing Guoan.

Beijing host Kawasaki in their final group match on April 28 which will decide second place in the group.

The Victory travel to Korea to play Seongnam, who are already qualified for the round of 16, for their final ACL match.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick said he was proud of his club's efforts in a tough campaign, marred by scheduling difficulties and injuries to key players including star striker Archie Thompson.

Melbourne were without experienced midfielders Grant Brebner and Tom Pondeljak with hamstring problems on Wednesday night, defender Adrian Leijer was suspended, while playmaker Carlos Hernandez played despite a virus.

"We were certainly unhappy with the results but I think our players did a fantastic job in the Asian Champions League under very difficult circumstances," Merrick said.

"We had a bench of six players tonight and five of them are in the youth team.

"When you've got the quality of players we have out, you're always going to be struggling for confidence in the midfield. I was very proud of them."

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